Knockoff Batteries Could Put Couple in Prison
LOS ANGELES - A Simi Valley businessman was convicted of selling $2.6 million in cheap, knock-off batteries for emergency backup power on nuclear aircraft carriers and other Navy vessels.
A federal jury last week convicted Didier De Nier, 63, of five counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States.
A dual French-U.S. citizen, De Nier fled the country two years ago. He was CEO of Powerline dba Birdman Distribution; his ex-wife Lisa De Nier was vice president.
Lisa De Nier has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the government. Both face up to 10 years in federal prison and are scheduled for sentencing this year.
Prosecutors said Didier De Nier left the country after federal agents raided Powerline's offices in July 2012. He hid out on his yacht near the Caribbean island of St. Martin, in French waters.
In October 2013, federal agents arrested De Nier after he sailed to the American Virgin Islands.
De Nier sold more than 80,000 batteries and battery assemblies to the government over a period of seven years, beginning in 2004.
The knockoffs were used as backup power on nuclear aircraft carriers, minesweepers, ballistic submarines and other vessels, prosecutors said.
"According to the evidence presented during a six-day trial, De Nier and his employees disguised the bogus nature of the batteries by affixing counterfeit labels that falsely identified the batteries as originating from approved manufacturers," the U.S. attorney said in a statement.
"Powerline employees also used chemicals to remove 'Made in China' markings from the knock-off batteries."
De Nier faces a maximum sentence of 110 years at his Aug. 18 sentencing hearing before U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee.
Lisa De Nier could be sent to prison for up to 10 years.