Contractor accused of selling ejection seats from plane he was dismantling

Contractor accused of selling ejection seats from plane he was dismantling

URBANA — A contractor who had the job of dismantling vintage aircraft on the former Chanute Air Force Base has been charged with money laundering and theft after he allegedly sold two ejection seats out of a jet he was taking apart.

Kenneth "Ken" Morrison, 68, of Whiting, Ind., made his first court appearance on the Class 2 felony charges Tuesday in Champaign County Circuit Court.

Judge John Kennedy allowed Morrison, who had been given a notice to appear, to remain free and told him to be back Sept. 13 with his own attorney.

Assistant State's Attorney Dan Clifton said the charges allege that on Aug. 3, Morrison unlawfully sold two ejection seats from a fighter plane that he had been hired to dismantle.

Although Morrison allegedly sold the seats — later recovered by Rantoul police — for $125, Clifton said the Air Force maintained that they were worth about $40,000 and that they were still government property since they had not yet been scrapped.

Last year, Morrison, doing business as T&K Metals, bid for and won the right to dismantle the planes. His contract with the government says that he cannot resell the parts.

The salvage-company operator has had hiccups from the start in the plane-scrapping process, including a fire that destroyed a C-47 in April and fires in two other aircraft.

The fires prompted the village to order him to stop work, but Morrison told the Rantoul Press last month that he was allowed to resume after promising to keep an employee with a hose nearby.

Morrison also told Rantoul Press reporter Dave Hinton that he did not think he was violating his contract by selling the seats since the buyer didn't intend to put them back in an F-105.

When the sale of the seats came to light, authorities forced Morrison to cease the dismantling of the aircraft, which he estimated would have been done by about the end of October. They also seized a Caterpillar Skid Steer that he owns.

Clifton said Morrison has prior a conviction out of Pennsylvania for releasing oil into a river while cutting up an oil-storage tank and is currently under federal indictment in Indiana for cutting up a railroad bridge in Hammond and selling it for scrap metal.

He also has a 1997 conviction from LaSalle County for deceptive practices, Clifton said.

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