The plea deal given to a serially unpatriotic company in Orchard Park is the kind of thing that makes observers believe that a different standard of justice applies to the politically connected.
Specifically, why in the name of decency should the leaders of National Air Cargo escape personal punishment for cheating the U.S. Defense Department -- and, therefore, American troops and taxpayers -- during wartime?
If an old man like John Rigas, former head of Adelphia, can be trundled off to the pokey for ripping off shareholders, why shouldn't someone from National Air Cargo spend time in a jumpsuit for a conviction that led to "the largest criminal recovery, in terms of dollars, in the history of Western New York," as the lead prosecutor put it?
Because there won't be any trials of individuals, that's why. No one from National Air Cargo will see the inside of a jail for repeatedly overcharging the Defense Department for military shipments within the United States between early 1999 and April 2005. Under the terms of a corporate felony plea deal, the company will pay more than $28 million in fines, restitution and forfeitures, and while that might sting some, it's hardly a disincentive to the next company that thinks it can make millions of extra dollars by taking advantage of the plight of American servicemen and women.
What is more, while the charge involved only shipments within this country, U.S. Attorney Terrance P. Flynn acknowledged that the investigation never looked closely at overseas shipments. National Air Cargo does much of its business in Iraq and Afghanistan. So no one outside the company really knows.
What National Air Cargo did is nothing new. Contractors have taken advantage of the government during wartime ever since there were governments and wars. For some people, the temptation to a quick, dishonest buck -- or many millions of them -- is simply irresistible. But there's no law that says companies and their leaders can't be moral, ethical, patriotic and plain honest.
Sad to say, for the company's employees and Western New Yorkers in general, the leaders of National Air Cargo didn't measure up. They failed America, and America's taxpayers.