36 nabbed in drug raid at Boeing plant

Posted: September 30, 2011

THEY BUILT military aircraft at Boeing's sprawling Ridley Park plant in Delaware County. But authorities said yesterday that the employees were also illegally peddling and using prescription drugs such as Oxycontin and Xanax at the same time.

After a four-year undercover investigation, federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment yesterday charging 23 Boeing workers with distributing oxycodone and other prescription painkillers on Boeing's property.

Authorities said that 14 others were charged with a misdemeanor - attempted possession of oxycodone and various other drugs - sold to them by their co-workers.

Most of the defendants were expected to be released on bail.

All but one of the defendants was arrested yesterday, and most still work at Boeing, although nine defendants were arrested off-site.

Boeing spokesman Damien Mills said that all the workers charged yesterday are now suspended, pending completion of an internal investigation.

A rep for United Aerospace Workers Local 1069, the union that represents Boeing workers, declined comment. (Among those charged with attempted possession of prescription painkillers was the former president of the union, Michael Patterson.)

Boeing conducted an internal investigation and handed over leads to federal investigators in 2007, Mills said. The conduct began in 2008 and continued up to the present, according to the charges.

U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger said authorities were not aware of any accidents or problems involving aircraft that the accused employees worked on at the Ridley Park plant.

Mills said that once the investigation began, Boeing monitored the suspected workers to ensure that the integrity of the manufacturing process was not compromised.

The Ridley Park plant manufactures the V-22 Osprey, a tiltrotor, and the CH-47 Chinook helicopter.

The Osprey has been plagued by at least four failures during flight testing, one combat-zone crash and a number of minor incidents.

Some of the defendants distributed fewer than 10 pills, while others distributed hundreds of tablets, the indictment said.

Authorities said that they did not know where the illicit drugs were procured but that it was "very easy" to get access to prescription drugs.

The charges also raised questions about the effectiveness of Boeing's drug-testing programs for its workers. Mills said he couldn't disclose details of the company's drug-testing policy.

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