Boeing was arraigned Thursday in Texas on criminal fraud conspiracy charges related to two Boeing Max 737 crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. The company won't be prosecuted if it complies with terms of a deferred prosecution agreement requiring Boeing to pay $2.5 billion to crash victims families. A Boeing Max 737 is pictured in Britain in 2018. Photo by Cityswift/Flickr
Jan. 26 (UPI) -- The U.S. Justice Department announced that Boeing is being arraigned Thursday on a criminal conspiracy to commit fraud charge related to two separate 737 Max jet crashes in Indonesia in 2018 and Ethiopia in 2019 that killed 346 people.
U.S. District Court Judge Reed O'Connor ordered Boeing's public arraignment on the felony charge last week. He said then that the law requires Boeing be publicly arraigned and that the crash victims' families have a right to be heard at the arraignment.
But if Boeing meets all the conditions of a deferred prosecution agreement with the government, the criminal case will not be prosecuted.
The Justice Department said in a statement that Boeing struck a deferred prosecution agreement in January 2021 to resolve "a criminal charge filed simultaneously against Boeing, specifically, conspiracy to defraud the Federal Aviation Administration's Aircraft Evaluation Group in connection with the FAA AEG's evaluation of Boeing's 737 MAX airplane."
Boeing agreed to pay $2.5 billion to the heirs, relatives and legal beneficiaries of the 346 people killed in the Indonesian and Ethiopian 737 Max crashes. That included a $243.6 million criminal penalty.
According to a Justice Department court filing, if "Boeing breaches or fails to comply with any provision, the Government may prosecute Boeing for the crime charged."
Boeing admitted in court documents that they deceived the FAA about the speed range in which a part of the 737 Max's flight controls could operate.
According to the Justice Department indictment Jan. 7, Boeing "willfully, and with the intent to defraud, conspired and agreed together with others to defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing, defeating, and interfering with, by dishonest means, the lawful function of a United States government agency, to wit, the Federal Aviation Administration Aircraft Evaluation Group within the United States Department of Transportation, in connection with the FAA AEG's evaluation of the Boeing 737 MAX airplane's Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System."
On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board released its final report on the Boeing 737 Max Ethiopia crash that killed 157 people in 2019. It did not dispute that the plane's angle of attack pitched up, leading to the failure of that MCAS system.