Former Carson Helicopter Executive Indicted for Fraud and Endangering the Safety of Aircraft in Flight
On February 1, 2013, Steven Metheny, of Central Point, Oregon, and Levi Phillips, of Grants Pass, Oregon, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Medford, Oregon, for their respective roles in falsifying documents pertaining to a Sikorsky S-61N helicopter, tail number N612AZ, owned and operated by Carson Helicopters Services, Incorporated (Carson). Metheny was a former Vice President of Carson, and Phillips was the former Director of Maintenance and reported directly to Metheny. Both Metheny and Phillips were charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States Forest Service (USFS) involving contracts awarded to Carson in 2008, for helicopter services in firefighting operations. Metheny was also charged with mail and wire fraud, making false statements to the USFS, endangering the safety of aircraft in flight, and theft from an interstate shipment.
On December 4, 2008, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) briefed OIG regarding its ongoing safety investigation of the Carson helicopter crash. NTSB advised that the helicopter crashed while performing contracted firefighting services for the USFS. One of the crash victims was a USFS employee. NTSB's safety investigation of the crash raised allegations regarding Carson's falsification of documents pertaining to N612AZ, which included weight and balance sheets and performance charts that enable a pilot to make accurate maximum payload calculations. The investigation determined that Carson submitted falsified and/or altered documents to the USFS as a part of its bid package, which included an altered FAA-approved performance chart and weight and balance charts. The USFS subsequently awarded Carson firefighting contracts valued in excess of $20 million dollars in mid-2008. Carson pilots then relied on these altered and/or falsified documents when determining their helicopter maximum payload calculations.
The USAO in Medford, Oregon, is prosecuting this case.
Note: Indictments, informations, and criminal complaints are only accusations by the Government. All defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.