An engineer responsible for inspecting space-vehicle parts that were sold to SpaceX and Department of Defense aerospace contractors has been charged with falsifying inspection reports, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday.
James Smalley, 41, worked as a quality assurance engineer at the Rochester, New York-based PMI Industries, where he allegedly falsified signatures on at least 38 documents involving parts used by Elon Musk's SpaceX to build the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy series of crafts. At least 76 parts had falsified inspection reports or were outright rejected-but were still shipped to SpaceX for use, prosecutors allege.
Smalley admitted to forging the names of at least three employees and of using his company laptop to copy and paste signatures and stamps onto falsified source inspection reports, according to a criminal complaint.
"James Smalley took the act of forgery to a new level," said FBI Buffalo Special Agent-in-Charge Gary Loeffert. "A potentially catastrophic level with the potential to not only cost millions of dollars, but also jeopardize years of irreplaceable work."
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At least seven NASA space-flight missions and two United States Air Force space-flight missions were affected by such parts from PMI, which has since shuttered, according to the DOJ.
If convicted, Smalley faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
"The success of America's reinvigorated space program depends not just on American ingenuity but on American integrity as well," said U.S. Attorney James Kennedy Jr.
"Such fraudulent conduct jeopardizes no only the success of the program but the lives of the brave men and women who rely on the integrity of not just the space vehicles themselves but all those who help to design and build them," he added.
Smalley is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Rochester on Thursday.
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