Families of those who died in Boeing crashes press the Justice Department to prosecute the company

WASHINGTON — Relatives of passengers who died in two jetliner crashes pushed federal officials Friday to prosecute Boeing on criminal charges related to the accidents no later than this fall but said they got no commitment from the Justice Department.

The Justice Department determined two weeks ago that Boeing violated terms of a settlement that let the company avoid prosecution for deceiving regulators who approved the Boeing 737 Max. Prosecutors have said they will announce by July 7 whether the company will face sanctions.

Boeing agreed in 2021 to pay $2.5 billion — mostly compensation to airlines — to avoid prosecution on a fraud charge. Relatives of some of the 346 people who died in the 2018 and 2019 crashes have tried ever since to scuttle the settlement.

It appeared that the fraud case would be dismissed permanently. But in January, a door plug blew off a Max during an Alaska Airlines flight, leading to new investigations of Boeing.

“They claimed the Max is completely safe, it’s the most-scrutinized plane ever, even as the doors blow off on the Alaska Air (Max), and they can’t blame the pilots anymore,” said Michael Stumo, whose daughter, Samya, died in the second crash.

The Justice Department declined to comment Friday but has said that Boeing violated terms of the 2021 settlement by failing to make promised changes to detect and prevent violations of federal anti-fraud laws.

Prosecutors have not publicly disclosed instances of potential fraud. In early May, Boeing disclosed that workers at a South Carolina plant falsified inspection reports on some 787 Dreamliner jets.

“We believe that we have honored the terms of the agreement, and look forward to the opportunity to respond to the Justice Department on this issue,” a Boeing spokesperson said. They added that the company is acting “with the utmost transparency” to answer the department’s questions, including those surrounding the Alaska Airlines incident.

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