LOS ANGELES (CN) – A 74-year-old Woodland Hills businessman on Monday was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for selling uncertified rubber O-rings that were used on Boeing 737s. Duane Lepire ran the Chatsworth Rubber and Gasket Co. in Canoga Park.
Lepire, who pleaded guilty in April to fraud, sold commercial grade O rings to aircraft brokers by falsely claiming they were certified to be used in aircraft parts.
“When he sold the nonconforming O-rings, Lepire submitted bogus ‘certificates of conformance’ and painted markings on the O-rings to make it appear as if they had been manufactured by aviation quality manufacturers,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement. “The non-conforming O-rings were used to make vibration dampeners on Boeing 737 aircraft and caused the vibration dampeners to leak hydraulic fluid.” The rings created a safety hazard, but no crashes are known to have resulted, the U.S. attorney said.
U.S. District Judge S. James Otero refused Lepire’s request for probation, citing the “very devious” nature of the offense and the danger to the public.
Problems with O-rings became famous after the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, and astronomer Carl Sagan dramatically demonstrated for TV cameras how a rubber O-ring could shatter if it were exposed to cold.