Man pleads guilty to false statements

Published 8:43 pm Tuesday, October 1, 2019

A Suffolk man pleaded guilty Tuesday to making a false statement in a matter within the jurisdiction of the United States.

According to court documents, in November 2012, Joseph Powell, 29, was hired by Newport News Shipbuilding to be a non-destructive test inspector, in Newport News, according to a press release from the office of U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger.

Powell performed weld inspections on vessels such as Virginia Class submarines and aircraft carriers. Powell had extensive training on and familiarity with the proper protocol for types of weld inspections. To track and ensure quality control with inspections, non-destructive test inspector certify their inspections using the shipyard’s electronic record system, which falls within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Navy and the Department of Defense.

Email newsletter signup

In June 2016, Newport News Shipbuilding received information that Powell appeared to have certified the inspection of a weld joint in the electronic record system without conducting the requisite inspection protocol. As a result of this information, the company initiated an inquiry.

Various welds certified by Powell in the electronic record system subsequently were investigated by Newport News Shipbuilding in June 2016, which led to the identification of additional welds that were not in acceptable condition for inspection, did not contain the required physical markings indicating an inspection had been completed, nor had residue or powder on or around the job from the inspection equipment.

Numerous non-destructive test weld joints certified by Powell were re-inspected, according to court documents. The re-inspections revealed that a number of weld joints previously certified by Powell as being satisfactory were, in the opinion of the personnel who did the re-inspections, unsatisfactory, as these weld joints contained indications or defects subject to rejection and specifically required repair by a welder.

Powell agreed, for sentencing purposes, that the estimated loss to the United States attributable to his false certifications of weld inspections from in or about December 2015 through June 2016 is approximately $43,500.

Powell pleaded guilty to false statements and faces a maximum of five years in prison when sentenced on Jan. 15.