Parts Fraud Repeat Offender Goes Up The River
by Aero-News Senior Correspondent Kevin R.C. "Hognose"
When Amanullah Khan, 56, of Brea, CA stood to face the judge for
sentencing Monday, a case that began almost exactly four years ago
with a small aluminum forging that should have been made of steel
finally saw justice done. Federal lawmen uncovered millions of
dollars worth of fraud, and unimaginably callous risks taken with
human lives, in the course of a case that wove through Federal
courts on both coasts of the nation -- and sent two men to
When Special Agents from the Department of Transportation and
the FBI called on United Aircraft & Electronics in Anaheim,
California, on November 29, 2001, they were met by one of the
partners, Wali Merchant. They asked him many questions, including
some specific ones about FAA Forms 8130-3 ("Authorized Release
Certificate," formerly called "Airworthiness Approval Tag") on Bell
205 ("Huey") helicopter parts; and tail rotor grips that had been
altered. Merchant said that he never shipped 8130-3s with parts,
certainly didn't make his own 8130-3s, and never altered any tail
rotor grips... or his name wasn't Wali Merchant.
Except, of course, his name wasn't "Wali Merchant." "Merchant"
was actually Amanullah Khan, a naturalized citizen from Pakistan,
who'd already been convicted in another aircraft parts fraud case,
and been banned from doing business with the United States
military. His other statements were lies also: he'd shipped
millions of dollars worth of aircraft parts with 8130-3s. (But the
forms were bogus; shown to the manufacturers or the DARs who
supposedly generated the forms, they were fingered as forgeries).
And well, he had altered tail rotor grips.
At about this point, helicopter pilots reading this story have
developed a clenched-gut pucker, because they know what tail rotor
grips are. As the above picture illustrates, they're the little
beggars that hold your tail rotor blades on. When they let go, bad
things happen, which usually involve the helicopter rotating
counter to the main rotor blades' rotation, shaking itself to
pieces, and/or plummeting to the ground. What Khan did was take an
obsolete part, Bell 204-011-728-019, which was an aluminum alloy
tail rotor grip (204), and put a new data plate and tag on it
representing it as a 205-011-711-101 steel grip (205).
The parts were physically interchangeable, but they were not
equivalent. The 204 part was developed for the short-bodied Bell
204/UH-1A/B/C Huey helicopter. The 205 part was introduced with the
Bell 205/UH-1D/H/etc long-fuselage helicopters.
The alloy (204) grips -- before Bell took them entirely out of
service -- had a service life of 300 hours. The steel (205) parts
have a service life of 2,500 hours. Khan's parts, actually worth
only their scrap value, became instantly valuable airworthy parts
-- on paper. Counterfeit paper.
An employee of United, Dat Vu, did the actual work of changing
data plates at the direction of Khan and his partner, Ziad Jamil
Gammoh, 56, of Tustin, CA. Gammoh is a naturalized citizen
originally from Jordan.
Court documents said that the parts were shipped with "two false
documents: (1) a UA&E certificate of conformance signed
by 'Oscar Munoz' which stated that the parts were 205s; and (2) a
fraudulent FAA 8130-3 purporting to be from Bell Helicopter,
certifying the airworthiness of the bogus 205s." Imagine having
that part on your helicopter with 2,100-odd hours on it and flying
with confidence, knowing you had over 300 hours to replacement --
when you actually were seven times over the design life of the
Things didn't end with tail rotor grips. Khan and Gammoh also
did cosmetic refinishing on worn-out turbine blades and then
repackaged them as new Pratt & Whitney parts, using counterfeit
P&W packaging. The case ended in a surprise guilty plea before
the US Attorney could present all the evidence of turbine blade
counterfeiting and false certification. In a way this was worse
than the rotor grip misconduct, because rotor grips are a
serialized part and those sold by United Aircraft & Electronics
can be tracked down. Turbine blades and vanes that live in the hot
sections of engines are not so serialized, and the government
cannot be confident that is has tracked down all of Khan and
Gammoh's bogus blades and vanes.
The operation Khan set up was stark in its simplicity and
breathtaking in its criminality. For at least a year -- possibly
longer -- it ran a blade "reconditioning" assembly line. When the
agents executed a search warrant at United Aircraft &
Electronics on December 13, 2001, they seized a number of complete
and in-process blades and vanes; more of the parts came from United
The prosecutors charged that United Aircraft & Electronics
was running "a mill that took scrap quality vanes and blades, made
cosmetic refurbishments, then sold those vanes and blades to
unwitting customers as new. [Khan] certified the vanes and blades
were new, then accompanied the parts with FAA Form 8130-3s that not
only misrepresented that the parts were new, but falsely certified
that they were airworthy. Unsuspecting end-users of these parts who
relied on defendants' certifications and bogus FAA Form 8130-3s
could easily have placed these scrap-quality parts into a jet
Richard Bogdan, a Pratt and Whitney engineer, examined the
US&E modified parts, and the court papers record his
"They all exhibited signs of engine use, some under extreme
conditions; many showed signs of a crude weld repair which not only
exceeded approved repair limits but penetrated the cooling
mechanism, rendering it ineffective; many showed signs that repair
station markings had been obliterated; and many no longer met the
physical specifications for the part because of material changes
associated with engine use." Further, "...[g]iven the condition of
the parts -- compromised heat coating, ineffective cooling
passages, improper weld repairs, presence of metal fatigue -- the
parts could fail at extreme temperatures." As the vanes and blades
in question live in the hot section of the engine, extreme
temperatures would be unavoidable.
And it didn't just stop with counterfeit parts. A couple of days
after interviewing Khan, Special Agent Paul Blake discovered that
another investigation of United was underway -- that one out of the
Washington, DC, district, and dealing with trafficking in arms.
(Indeed, this is when Blake learned "Wali Merchant's" real name and
criminal history. Khan had been trying to sell warplane parts,
including parts for F-4, F-5, and F-14 fighters to a Chinese
company. (The Chinese do not operate these aircraft; the parts were
probably for resale to Iran, which does, but is under US
Ironically, Khan had sold bad parts to US and friendly interests
and tried to sell good parts to potential US enemies.
Khan and Gammoh were arrested in April, 2002 on the
counterfeit-parts charges, but the investigations didn't stop.
Their company premises yielded a treasure trove of fool's gold --
counterfeit and mislabeled aircraft parts, millions and millions of
dollars worth, and records showing that over $5 million in fake
parts had been sold and shipped to unsuspecting customers.
The most serious violation was the misrepresentation of the
above-mentioned tail rotor grips; working in cooperation with Bell,
the FAA issued an Emergency AD and an Operations Safety Notice
about United's killer grips -- with the result that none appears to
have flown long enough to fail. (Indeed, Khan's attorneys cited the
lack of any deaths -- yet -- in a cheeky, but futile, shot at a
Gammoh was released on bail but since Khan was already on
supervised release -- Federal parole -- at the time of his crimes,
he was held by the court. In 2003, the men were rearrested for the
During the trial, Khan's lawyer used an FAA Form 8130-3 to try
to impeach a prosecution witness on cross-examination. The maneuver
backfired as the form turned out to be a forgery -- presumably by
After that, Khan changed his plea to guilty on 12 counts,
bringing the trial to a sudden halt.
Gammoh, tried separately, was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in
Federal prison. Khan, his sentencing aggravated by his being out on
supervised release from a previous conviction on similar charges,
drew a 15-year sentence when the hammer finally fell on him in
Federal District Court in Santa Ana, CA this week.
Neither Khan nor Gammoh has reported to prison yet. When they
do, you'll be able to find them at the FMI link: the Federal Bureau
of Prisons. But, even as we think this sordid case is over for
good, an alarming note is sounded by the prosecutors: "Even today,
there is the risk that a passenger jet in Southeast Asia or Eastern
Europe is flying on an engine that contains a vane or blade that
defendant sold." Because the authorities got control of all the
fake tail-rotor grips, but they never were able to track down all
the bogus Pratt & Whitney vanes and blades. WIth the ultimate
consequences of his counterfeiting career still unknown, Khan may
turn out to have been lucky to get only fifteen years.