A federal grand jury has indicted an aviation broker and a former Forest Service official on charges they conspired to steal firefighting planes in a scheme under investigation for five years.
The FBI, the Pentagon, the Navy, the Agriculture Department and General Services Administration all participated in the investigation that includes allegations some of the planes were put in the hands of contractors who used them to fly covert missions for the CIA.Roy D. Reagan, the broker, and Fred Fuchs, former assistant director of Forest Service fire and aviation management, were charged Tuesday with conspiracy and theft of government property in the indictment issued by a grand jury in Tucson, Ariz., U.S. Attorney Janet Napolitano said.
The U.S. Attorney's office in Arizona got involved last year because many of the planes were stored in Arizona.
Reagan and Fuchs are accused of making false statements to the Defense Department, committing mail and wire fraud and accepting payments in transferring 28 government aircraft to private contractor use, Napolitano said in a statement. The planes were valued at $28 million.
The indictment also accuses them of a single count of theft based on the unauthorized transfer of title of a C-130 air tanker by Reagan and Fuchs from U.S. government ownership to TBM Inc., an air tanker operator in Tulare, Calif. The C-130 was among the 28 planes.
Historically, the Air Force has provided used military aircraft to the Forest Service, which uses them to fight fires.
Under the exchange program, the Forest Service gave its planes to private contractors in return for historical planes that were to be displayed at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.
But the museum director told the USDA inspector general in 1992 that the contractors' planes lacked historical significance and had little display value. Essentially, the Forest Service gave away valuable planes in exchange for planes with little value.