Helicopter Exec Sentenced to 12.5 Years in Prison

Stephen Metheny, 45, a former vice president for Carson Helicopters in Oregon, was sentenced by a federal judge to 12 and a half years in prison for falsifying records to secure a $51 million U.S. Forest Service firefighting contract that ended up leading to a deadly crash in 2008.

Levi Phillips, Carson's director of maintenance at the time, received a two-year prison sentence for his role in the scheme.

Metheny and Phillips were convicted of falsifying helicopter weight and balance and performance charts to land the lucrative government contract. The incorrect charts were then distributed to pilots, who used them to calculate performance during firefighting operations.

On Aug. 5, 2008, nine people aboard a Carson Sikorsky S-61 were killed on takeoff and four others severely injured after the pilots relied on the falsified charts, which put the helicopter 568 pounds over max gross weight.

After the crash, prosecutors say Metheny and Phillips tried to conceal the fraud by attempting to prevent the Forest Service from determining the true weights of the helicopters under contract. The government had paid Carson about $19 million before the contract was canceled following the crash.

Metheny was also accused of stealing money from Carson to buy jewelry for his wife and make home renovations. He ended up repaying Carson nearly $74,000 in restitution for helicopter parts he stole from the company.

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