Businessman is sentenced for mail fraud Substandard items sold to defense contractors

July 18, 1996|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

The owner of a New Jersey company that sold substandard nuts, bolts and screws to federal defense contractors was sentenced to five months in a halfway house and five months in home detention yesterday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Joseph Prussin, 62, owner of Flag Fasteners in Carlstadt, N.J., was also ordered to pay $20,000 in restitution. Prussin pleaded guilty to a single charge of mail fraud on May 14.

Prussin was netted in a sting operation involving a bogus Glen jTC Burnie company. That operation, conducted by the FBI, the Department of Defense Inspector General's Office and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, resulted in the prosecution of six companies and 19 people.

Prussin's attorney, Paul D. Hazelhurst, told U.S. District Judge Benson E. Legg before the sentencing that his client was one of the least egregious offenders caught in the sting. The market for fasteners is extremely competitive, and a few cents' savings can mean the difference between survival and going out of business, Hazelhurst said.

According to court records, the New Jersey company, which is )) now in bankruptcy, sold various fasteners that did not meet specified standards -- including nuts, bolts, screws and washers -- to military contractors.

The Department of Defense uses fasteners that must meet rigid military specifications and high performance standards and must tested for chemical composition, plating thickness, stress durability and tensile strength.

Those test results must accompany each order of fasteners sent to a defense contractor, or the vendor must keep them on file. Military-grade fasteners are more expensive than commercial-grade because of the additional manufacturing, performance and testing requirements.

Between June 1985 and July 1993, Flag Fasteners routinely certified that it sold military-grade merchandise to federal contractors, when the company in fact bought commercial-grade fasteners, falsified documentation that they met the required specifications and sold them to federal defense contractors, prosecutors said.

The fasteners were used to build MK48 torpedoes by a company in Coplague, N.Y.; a nuclear, biological and chemical warfare alarm system by a contractor in Newport News, Va.; and vans by a company in Frederick.

In one case, Flag Fasteners supplied zinc-plated parts when a contractor ordered military-grade parts plated with cadmium. The fasteners were plated with zinc that had been dyed yellow so the parts appeared to have cadmium plating, court records said.

In February 1993, federal agents set up a fictitious company, Russell Machine Corp. in the 6700 block of Ritchie Highway in Glen Burnie.

The agents ordered military-grade parts from Flag Fasteners, and the company substituted commercial-grade fasteners for some items, authorities said.

Pub Date: 7/18/96

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