Fort Worth Defense Contractor Charged With Felony for Using Cheap, Substandard Parts for U.S. Tanks, Other Weapons

A career Fort Worth defense contractor who spent time in prison for lying to the government is in trouble again for similar conduct, which investigators say could have compromised troop safety and led to the disclosure of U.S. technology secrets to foreign governments. Ross Hyde, 63, has been charged in federal court with making false claims about the type of aluminum he provided under a contract for aircraft landing gear, court records show. He faces up to five years in prison, if convicted. Hyde, a machinist, has said in court documents that he's worked in the industry all his life. His latest company, Vista Machining Co., has supplied the Pentagon with parts for tanks, aircraft and other military equipment — mostly hardware and machined metals — since 2008. But inspectors said many of his products were cheap replacements, some illegally obtained from China, which he tried to hide from the government. Substituting cheap knockoffs, sometimes from foreign companies, is an old trick of the unscrupulous contractor. It can cause serious safety problems for members of the military if the parts are used in critical systems. It's also a consistent problem, if one looks at Justice Department announcements of indictments and news reports over the years. Public records show that the Fort Worth businessman, a second-generation defense contractor, had encountered financial troubles in recent years, including bankruptcies and an IRS lawsuit for unpaid taxes. But Vista has earned more than $20 million from government contracts, according to a government database. The case highlights the government's questionable oversight of its defense contractors, who are able to keep selling Uncle Sam goods despite being repeat offenders. "At some point the government has to assess whether Hyde is a responsible contractor or too risky to do business with," said Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight, a nonpartisan watchdog that keeps a database of federal contractor misconduct. "Corners are cut by all companies. ... The real question is, do they get caught and how does the government react?" Hyde pleaded guilty in 1997 to a charge of false statements by a government contractor. He was sentenced to one year in prison and a $60,000 fine. His father and Hyde's company, Ordnance Parts Inc., also were charged in the case. Details of the allegations in that case are unavailable due to its age. Hyde was barred from working as a government contractor for three years as a result.   Continue reading...

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