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Former Carson Helicopter Services Vice President Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy and Making False Statements

On November 24, 2014, Steven Metheny, former vice president of Carson Helicopter Services, Grants Pass, Oregon, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court, Medford, Oregon, to making a false statement and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) related to helicopter services for firefighting operations. USFS firefighting contracts required that helicopters meet certain minimum payload specifications. Metheny admitted that in 2008, he submitted bid proposals to the USFS with falsified weight and balance records.  He made it appear that Carson helicopters met minimum contract specifications which were used in evaluating whether they would be awarded the contracts. Carson subsequently won over $20 million in firefighting contracts. Metheny also caused the falsified information to be placed in the flight manuals of Carson aircraft. This information was used by unaware pilots to calculate the maximum payload capacity of their helicopters during firefighting operations, thereby endangering their safety during flight.

In February 2013, Metheny and Levi Phillips, former Carson Director of Maintenance, were indicted on multiple charges. Phillips pleaded guilty, admitting that he and Metheny submitted contract proposals to the USFS with falsified weight and balance charts. We began our investigation when the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) briefed OIG regarding its ongoing safety investigation of the Carson helicopter crash that occurred in Northern California in August 2008. NTSB advised that the helicopter crashed while performing contracted firefighting services for the USFS. Nine people died and four others were seriously injured in the crash.

OIG is conducting this investigation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, OIG, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division.