Former Air Force Official Gets 9 Months in Boeing Contract Conspiracy

A former top Air Force procurement official was sentenced to nine months in prison after admitting for the first time Friday that she helped Boeing Co. (BA) obtain an inflated price on a $23 billion contract while she sought an executive job at the company.

Darleen Druyun (search) of Vienna, Va., had pleaded guilty in April to conspiracy to violate federal conflict-of-interest regulations. But she had previously insisted that her crime was merely a technical conflict, and that she always upheld the government's interest even as she pursued a job with Boeing.

At her sentencing in U.S. District Court, prosecutors said Druyun failed a lie-detector test that was required under her initial plea bargain. She then admitted she helped Boeing obtain better deals on the contract to provide refueling tanker planes and other contracts.

"She did this as a parting gift to Boeing and to ingratiate herself into Boeing," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Wiechering.

When Druyun pleaded guilty in April, she had admitted only technical violations of the conflict-of-interest rules. Specifically, she said she had negotiated a deal to become a vice president at the giant aircraft manufacturer and defense contractor while she was still an Air Force (search) officer with influence over Boeing contracts.

After failing government polygraph tests, however, she conceded that her conflict produced substantive benefits for Boeing in that she altered journals provided to the government to cover up her story.

She was ordered to spend nine months in prison and seven months in a halfway house. Prosecutors had sought 16 months in prison.

Druyun's attorney, John Dowd, said he was pleased with the sentence handed down by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III.

"She had difficulty coming to grips with some matters," Dowd told Ellis, referring to Druyun's initial lies about the scope of her wrongdoing. "But she did, she finally did."

The $23 billion tanker deal is currently under review by the Defense Department.

In court documents, Druyun admitted providing assistance to Boeing on other contracts as well. Among them were a $4 billion contract to provide upgrades to the Air Force's C-130 fleet. She admitted that Boeing gained an advantage because they were helping her daughter's boyfriend get a job, and that Boeing might not have received the contract on a level playing field.

She also said she helped Boeing obtain an inflated deal on a $100 million NATO AWACS (search) contract in 2002, at the same time she successfully intervened to keep Boeing from firing her daughter, who worked for the company, for poor performance.

Druyun offered a tearful apology "to my nation, to my Air Force" at Friday's sentencing.

"I deeply regret any damage I have done ... to the integrity of the procurement process," she said.

Druyun and former Boeing chief financial officer Michael Sears were subjects of a federal grand jury investigation of the Air Force's plan to acquire 100 refueling tankers from the Chicago-based jet maker.

Boeing fired Druyun and Sears in November for what the company termed unethical behavior.

Wiechering said Friday that Sears remains under investigation and that his case may be resolved soon.

Prosecutors said Sears improperly contacted Druyun about a possible top-level company job in 2002, when she still was at the Air Force and playing a key role in deciding whether Boeing should get the tanker contract, which could be worth up to $23 billion.

Druyun retired from the Air Force in November 2002 and joined Boeing in January 2003 as deputy general manager of its Missile Defense Systems unit.

Boeing shares rose 31 cents to $51.93 on the New York Stock Exchange (search).