A former manager of an engineering company and five executives of outsourced engineering suppliers were indicted Dec. 16, 2021, for allegedly conspiring not to hire employees from one another’s companies, the US Department of Justice announced.

The effort allegedly affected thousands of engineers and other skilled workers in the aerospace industry.

Those indicted were Mahesh Patel — who allegedly led the effort as the suppliers’ common customer at an engineering company — Tom Edwards, Steven Houghtaling and Harpreet Wasan, all of Connecticut; Robert Harvey of South Carolina; and Gary Prus of Florida, according to the department.

Patel had previously been charged by complaint and arrested and has since been released on a $100,000 appearance bond.

“Conduct that corrupts competition for workers has no place in our economy,” said Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “Our investigation revealed a prolonged and widespread scheme to deprive aerospace workers of the ability to plan their own careers and earn competitive pay.”

The suspects joined in the alleged effort to reduce rising labor costs, according to the department.

The maximum penalty for restraining trade is 10 years in prison and a fine of $1 million. The fine can be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims if either amount is greater than the statutory maximum fine.

This indictment is the first in an ongoing investigation into the labor market allocation in the aerospace engineering services industry, according to the department. It was handed down in the US District Court in Connecticut and doesn’t refer to the companies involved by name. However, Patel’s company was described as one of the largest aerospace engine design, manufacture and service companies in the US. Its principal place of business is East Hartford, Connecticut.

The engineering outsourcing companies were based in Ohio, California and Florida.

An indictment only alleges that a crime has been committed. The defendants are presumed innocent until found guilty in court.