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Paint-Stripper Bribery Draws in Others

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

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A CEO indicted for bribing military base officials to buy his paint remover was the last, but not the least, person implicated in the plot, officials said Tuesday (Dec. 9).

Two procurement officials at Tinker (OK) Air Force Base and the Corpus Christi (TX) Army Depot as well as another  executive at the manufacturer, Aerochem Inc., have already pleaded guilty in the scheme, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Oklahoma confirmed in an interview.

Aerochem executive Soney E. Beesley, 40, of Oklahoma City, has already pleaded guilty to participating in the scheme. Beesley worked for Aerochem from 2008 to 2012.


The product appeared on the QPL for helicopter paint strippers at Corpus Christi Army Depot, even though it had failed independent laboratory testing, prosecutors said.

Other guilty pleas have come from Shelvie Raymond Tabb, the former depaint section chief for the 566th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Tinker; and Richard Balderas Jr., former supervisor of a division that stripped paint from engines and helicopter parts at the Corpus Christi Army Depot.

All of the men are awaiting sentencing.

'I Received Cash Payments'

Tabb had major purchasing influence at CCAD. He decided when the facility needed to replace vats of liquid paint stripper with new product.

Tabb, 50, indicted in September 2013, is also "the subject of a separate present responsibility inquiry by the Air Force," the Daily Caller reported, citing an Air Force debarring document issued after his indictment.

“I engaged in a course of conduct where I received cash payments and/or benefits from Aerochem agents ... in exchange for favorable treatment and/or recommendations of Aerochem products,” Tabb stated in court papers quoted by

The last shoe in the case dropped Dec. 4, when federal authorities announced the grand-jury indictment of Christopher Houston Hensley, 56, of Yukon, OK.

Christopher Houston Hensley
Tinker AFB / Margo Wright

Hensley also allegedly falsified documents to show that one of his products was approved for use at military bases, prosecutors said..

Hensley, a chemist by training and owner of Aerochem, is charged with three counts of bribing a public official, one count of conspiracy to commit bribery, and two counts of making false statements to the federal government. He faces decades in prison if convicted on all counts.

Hensley's indictment was reported Tuesday. Later, other details of the case emerged.

His lawyer says Hensley will vigorously fight the charges against him.

Hooters, Helmets and Cash

Prosecutors say the bribes took a variety of forms: from buying Tabb a $1,200 wedding ring for his bride; to evenings at Hooters and strip joints; to a $2,612.50 inflatable helmet for Balderas's son's football team, according to the indictment.

The indictment also lists $1,103.56 for a cruise for Tabb's son and daughter-in-law; $7,500 for a bass boat for Tabb; $1,200 to buy a "badly damaged" speedboat from Tabb; $5,000 cash for a bank account in the name of Balderas's wife; and $800 for a condo rental for Balderas in Florida.

At one point, Beesley gave Tabb $1,000 to help pay his taxes, according to the indictment.

There were also "routine cash payments" of $300 to $500 paid to Balderas and a payment of $8000 for uniforms for a girls' softball team that Tabb was coating. The amounts were based on the prices of depaint prdocuts that Tinker ordered from Aerochem, the indictment says.

Failed Formulas and QPL Deceit

Potentially more serious was the falsification of product information the indictment details.

One product at issue was Aerochem's Aerostrip 5128. The indictment notes that products have to be listed on the government's Qualified Products List (QPL) to be sold to military bases like CCAD.

QPL products are qualified through an independent laboratory for a military specification. Specifically, the performance specifications of MIL-PRF-83936 govern the approval of Aerostrip 5182 on the QPL.


Tinker Air Force Base
Tinker AFB / Mike W. Ray

Christopher Houston Hensley, president of Aerochem, is accused of bribing the depaint section chief for aircraft maintenance at Tinker Air Force Base in exchange for favorable treatment of his products.

Hensley, as a supplier, had to certify that Aerostrip 5128 met the performance specs of MIL-PRF-83936.

But it didn't, and Hensley knew that, the indictment says. In fact, the product had failed independent laboratory testing, but Hensley signed off on the QPL statement anyway, authorities said.

"[N]o Aerochem sample had passed all conformance standards of MIL-PROF-83936," the indictment says.

Plane Naked

Meanwhile, in Oklahoma, the indictment says, Aerochem "regularly altered its formulas for depaint products sold to Tinker, without getting formal approval to sell the modified product on base."

Aerochem wanted to please Tabb, who held "considerable influence" over purchasing and "directed nearly all of Tinker's depaint product purchases to Aerochem," the indictment says.

Beginning in 2004, Tabb insisted on Aerochem's product as the primary paint stripper for the entire base.

The product's name: Plane Naked.

Arraignment is scheduled for Dec. 29.


Tagged categories: Aviation; Coating Materials; Coatings manufacturers; Contractors; Ethics; Government contracts; Laws and litigation; North America; Paint Removal; Protective Coatings; U.S. Air Force; U.S. Army

Comment from John Fauth, (12/10/2014, 8:44 AM)

Thanks for tying up the loose ends from yesterday's article! Well, other than the $ 1,200 ring.

Comment from Jeff Longmore, (12/30/2014, 9:38 AM)

No mercy! Throw the book at the perpetrators - bribery like this is third world BS - we're better than that.

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