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FORMER BUYER FOR THIOKOL CONVICTED OF RECEIVING KICKBACKS ON CONTRACTS

A former buyer for defense contractor Morton Thiokol Inc. has been convicted on two of three federal counts of receiving kickbacks on government contracts.

The panel convicted Milo Andersen of Preston, Idaho, on Friday and U.S. District Chief Judge Bruce Jenkins scheduled sentencing for July 18. Anderson faces up to four years imprisonment and fines of up to $500,000.An indictment accused Andersen of taking cash kickbacks from a Southern California subcontractor, but the jury acquitted Andersen of accepting a trip to Las Vegas from the same man.

Foreman Dawson, former owner of L&B Machining of Placentia, Calif., testified that he gave Andersen hundreds of dollars to recognize him as a friend and someone through whom he did business.

"I thought it was a normal way of doing business to help people you're doing business with," said Dawson, who earlier entered into a plea bargain agreement with federal prosecutor.

Dawson testified that he saw his business with Morton Thiokol grow from no more than $30,000 in 1983 to about $500,000 in 1986 and thought Andersen was "just doing his job as he was supposed to be doing it. There didn't seem to be people who wanted to place orders with competent firms."

The defense maintained the money was loaned or gifts exchanged because the two men actually were friends. For example, Dawson said he came to Utah when Andersen's marriage was breaking up to see if he could help, and loaned him money because he was supporting two households in the separation.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Diamond asked in closing arguments that if, as he testified, Andersen "did not feel good about taking the money . . . why didn't he just say `No?' "

Defense attorney Stephen Larsen focused on the friendship.

"Please don't adopt the cynical and cheapened view of friendship that the government has advanced here," Larsen told the jury. "In his own mind, he never took a bribe or kickback."