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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Federal agents have charged dozens of Boeing contractors with distributing or attempting to acquire prescription painkillers following a raid on a company manufacturing plant in Pennsylvania on Thursday.

Officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Agency announced charges against 36 current and former Boeing employees and one other person after investigating sales of oxycodone and other synthetic opiates at Boeing’s 5,400-employee complex in Ridley Park, near Philadelphia.

The plant is responsible for producing the Army’s dual-rotor Chinook helicopters, which is one of the most relied-upon airframes for troop and light cargo transports in Iraq and Afghanistan. The plant also produces the Marine Corps and Air Force dual-rotor Osprey helicopters.

The 23 contractors charged with distribution of the painkillers face between 10 years and 260 years in prison, plus millions of dollars in fines, according to U.S. Attorney’s Office indictments. The 14 others face misdemeanor possession offenses, which carry a maximum sentence of one year in prison for each count.

U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger said at a news conference Thursday that he did not know what jobs the suspects did, nor was he aware of any problems involving aircraft made by the suspects.

Prosecutors also told The Associated Press on Thursday that they did not believe there was a connection between the drug arrests and a 2008 production line error that forced Boeing to temporarily shut down Chinook and Osprey manufacturing. In November that year, a plastic cap was found in the fuel line of an Osprey during construction.

Each of the defendants either sold drugs or bought a placebo drug that they thought was a narcotic substance from a person cooperating with the FBI, according to the charges.

“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,” Memeger said in a statement released Thursday.

The federal investigation began after Boeing conducted an internal investigation and notified authorities, according to a Boeing prepared statement.

The company “took appropriate steps to ensure safety of our employees and the absolute integrity and quality of the products we produce for our customers,” according to the statement.

slavine@pstripes.osd.mil

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