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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Police Bust Gang Peddling Stolen Aircraft Engine Parts

Federal police announced Wednesday that they have broken up a gang peddling stolen parts from one of the country's biggest jet engine makers to companies here and abroad.

The gang -- which included current and former workers at the Saturn engine plant -- stole components from the factory's stocks and used them to assemble engine parts for the Tu-154 passenger jet and Il-76 cargo plane, the police organized crime unit said in a statement.

"Identification numbers were affixed and false documents were provided," the statement said. "Via a chain of middlemen the parts were sold to airlines and repair companies in Russia and abroad."

The Tu-154 is the standard medium-range airliner on domestic flights in Russia and former Soviet republics. It is also used in Eastern Europe, Africa and Middle East. Approximately 900 Tu-154s of all models were built.

Six members of the ring, which had been operating since 2004, were arrested in a recent sting operation while trying to sell parts worth $141,000, police said.

Saturn said in a statement that the gang could be the "remnants of a criminal group," without giving any further details.

Police spokesman Yevgeny Artyomov would not comment on which companies had purchased the parts.

A spokeswoman for Saturn said the plant had been involved in the investigation and noted that only one of the six people arrested currently worked at the plant, located in Rybinsk, 250 kilometers northeast of Moscow.

This was not the first time that the jet maker was victim of parts theft.

A documentary film broadcast on Russian television in 2005 said engines from NPO-Saturn were stolen and found by police in the trunk of an Audi stopped in the vicinity of an aircraft repair factory near Vnukovo Airport in 2002.

AP, MT