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Eastern Airlines Supervisor Pleads Guilty in Maintenance Scheme

July 31, 1990

NEW YORK (AP) _ A former Eastern Airlines foreman who pleaded guilty to falsifying maintenance records says he ignored vital repairs on orders from superiors.

Elia Dragone on Monday became the first Eastern employee to plead guilty in what prosecutors describe as a conspiracy to overlook maintenance problems.

Dragone, 29, of Jersey City, N.J., told a federal judge he altered log books, work cards and other records to make it look as if vital repairs had been done.

He said the fraud was orchestrated by his superiors at the troubled airline to avoid costly flight delays and cancellations.

Eastern and nine managers were charged last week in an indictment unprecedented in the airline industry. The indictment alleges conspiracy, fraud, falsification of documents and obstruction of justice.

Dragone was named in 20 counts but pleaded guilty to only two in a plea bargain - conspiracy and obstructing an FAA investigation. He faces five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count at sentencing Oct. 17.

The New York Times reported today that a federal prosecutor is expected to issue a report criticizing Federal Aviation Administration officials who did not act on complaints from Eastern pilots and mechanics who said repairs were not being completed and maintenance records were being falsified.

The report says FAA officials thought the complaints were related to a labor dispute in which they did not want to get involved, the newspaper said.

Among those also indicted were Edward Upton, former vice president of maintenance and engineering, and Thomas Lewis, Eastern’s maintenance director for the Washington-to-Montreal region.

They and the other defendants are to be arraigned Aug. 6.