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Authorities Charge 37 In Drug Sting At Boeing's Pa. Plant

The Justice Department announced that 36 Boeing employees and one non-employee were arrested in connection to a drug sting at the aerospace company's Ridley Park, Pa., plant.

Twenty-three of them were charged with illegal distribution of a prescription drug; while the rest were charged with buying the drugs. The FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration placed an uncover agent at the plant, after Boeing complained that there was a problem.

Dow Jones reports that Boeing began an internal investigation in 2006 and notified authorities in 2007.

Each of those charged, said the Justice Department in a press release, either sold the agent a "controlled substance" or bought what they believed was a controlled substance but was really a placebo. The prescription drugs — Oxycontin and Xanax among them — were being sold on Boeing property, authorities said.

NPR's Carrie Johnson filed this report for our Newscast unit:

"This investigation and prosecution focused not only on the sellers, but also on the users because of the critical role that these employees play in manufacturing military aircraft," said Philadelphia's top federal prosecutor Zane David Memeger. "Prescription drug abuse has been on the rise in our community, and this is just one example of how pervasive the problem is."

If you're wondering, that Boeing plant manufactures the CH-47 Chinooks and portions of the V-22 Osprey.

CNN reports that Memeger said the investigation took a long time because "he wanted to attack 'the problem wholesale.'"

"This is a manufacturing facility for the government," he told CNN. "Taking out one person wouldn't make sense."

Update at 6:28 p.m. ET. Reaction From Boeing:

Damien Mills, a Boeing spokesperson, released this statement:

An internal Boeing investigation determined that potentially illegal activities were being conducted by certain employees at the Philadelphia Boeing facility. Boeing reported the company's findings to federal law enforcement officials and cooperated fully with the subsequent investigation and interdiction. Boeing commends the U.S. Attorney's Office, and other federal law enforcement agencies for their rigorous and thorough investigation, throughout which we took appropriate steps to ensure safety of our employees and the absolute integrity and quality of the products we produce for our customers.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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