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Defense contractor gets 3-year sentence

A former defense contractor has been sentenced to more than three years in federal prison for selling faulty parts to the U.S. military for fighter jets, machine guns, cannons and vehicles.

Nestor Daniel Lopez, owner of now-defunct Damon Industries Inc., originally was charged with 92 counts and pleaded guilty to 12 counts of submitting false documents on 50 contracts totaling more than $1-million.

Lopez, 50, was ordered Friday to pay $355,444 restitution to the Pentagon as part of his sentence in addition to three years and four months in prison. U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas ordered him into custody immediately.

Lopez admitted skipping inexpensive but critical metal-hardening heat treatments on parts made in his machine shop from 1997 to 1999. Prosecutors charged the metal collapsed under stress in six .50-caliber M2 machine guns with Damon breech blocks.

He also was accused of cutting corners on protective coatings, finishes, treatments and inspections, using the wrong type of metal and using the wrong dimensions for parts.

John Rassias, who has known Lopez for 10 years and hired him as a machinist at his Boca Raton holster company after the federal probe, attacked the government for singling out Lopez for prosecution.

He wrote the judge to deny Lopez tried to cheat the Pentagon and said, "Honest mistakes are being distorted to protect a failed system of inspection and propel personal careers."

Military reports raised questions about the ammunition used in four of the failed machine guns, but the inspector was allowed to retire unpunished, and the ammunition contractor was not prosecuted, Rassias said.

"It's sad that a small businessman working a small machine shop in Pompano Beach ends up literally getting blamed for all of the failings and shortcomings of our defense procurement system," defense attorney Michael Pasano said Monday.

Lopez was recommended for drug abuse treatment in prison based on medical records indicating he is addicted to painkillers for chronic back pain.