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Prison term for former shipyard NDT inspector

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gavelRobert Raymond Ruks, 34, of Portsmouth, Va., was sentenced today to 37 months in prison, followed by a term of three years supervised release, for making false statements to Navy officials and federal agents by falsely certifying that he had inspected the hulls of Navy ships and submarines, when in fact he had not. Subsequent inspections found certain welds on these vessels to be defective.

Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Mark D. Clookie, Director, Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), made the announcement after sentencing by United States District Judge Mark S. Davis. Ruks pleaded guilty on May 6, 2011.

“Lying on weld inspection reports is a dangerous crime that threatens the safety of our men and women who serve in the U.S. Navy,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “Because of his lies, the Navy and its shipbuilding partners had to conduct a thorough technical review and re-inspection of the affected vessels to ensure the ships’ safety. My office is committed to ensuring that government contractors are held responsible when they attempt to defraud the government and put our Navy personnel in danger.”

According to court documents, Ruks worked for Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, Newport News (NGSB) as a Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) inspector. On May 14, 2009, Ruks admitted to his supervisors that he had falsely certified that he had inspected three lift pad welds on a Navy submarine when in fact he had not. Ruks was later questioned by NCIS agents and, although he admitted the false certifications of the lift pad welds, he lied to the agents regarding the number of other ship and submarine hulls he had failed to inspect. NCIS determined that Ruks had been falsely certifying weld inspections on various hulls from 2007 through 2009. Based upon achieved inspection records, NGSB officials estimated that Ruks performed approximately 9,506 NDT weld inspections on as many as six submarines which he certified in the NGSB Electronic Records System. A re-inspection of all the welds certified by Ruks revealed that 14 structural welds and two pipe welds (one of which was a SUBSAFE, critical weld) were determined to be defective/unsatisfactory. There were also a considerable number of welds Ruks certified that were labeled as “inaccessible” due to their location. The re-inspection required 18,906 man-hours, which included the correction of the defective weld joints, at a cost of approximately $654,000.

This case was investigated by Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Assistant United States Attorney Stephen W. Haynie prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States.

August 12, 2011

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