PHILADELPHIA – Federal agents on Thursday raided a Boeing plant that makes military helicopters in a Philadelphia suburb and charged more than three dozen people with distributing or trying to get prescription drugs, among them powerful painkillers.
The arrests were made by the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration at the 5,400-employee plant in Ridley Park, where workers build aircraft including the H-47 Chinook helicopter and the V-22 Osprey. The plant is part of Boeing’s Defense, Space and Security unit.
It did not appear to be an organized drug ring, but rather a “nebulous” series of independent actors, authorities said.
“These sales placed the individual abusers, as well as society at large, at risk,” said DEA agent Vito S. Guarino.
All but one of the 37 people charged were current or former Boeing employees, U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger said at a news conference. He did not know what kind of jobs they had and said he wasn’t aware of any accidents or problems involving aircraft made by the suspects.
Indictments were unsealed charging 23 people with illegal distribution of a prescription drug, federal prosecutors said. In addition, 14 others were charged with attempted possession of the various drugs – including the painkillers fentanyl, oxycodone and others – allegedly being sold by their co-workers. Prosecutors said all but one of those charged had been arrested, but they declined to comment on the status of the 37th.
Boeing informed authorities of their suspicions about drug activity on the property after an internal investigation, company spokesman Damien Mills said in a statement.