FORMER HONDA EXECS GUILTY IN BRIBE TRIAL

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CONCORD, N.H.-In the end, all the finger-pointing at top American Honda Motor Co. brass got two of its two former managers nowhere.

A jury here last week found John Billmyer and Dennis Josleyn guilty in their 14-week federal dealer-kickback and bribery trial.

Overlooking weeks of courtroom assertions that Honda was a corrupt company whose Japanese managers dabbled in payoffs themselves, the jury found Mr. Billmyer guilty of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and Mr. Josleyn guilty of four counts of racketeering, conspiracy and mail fraud.

Mr. Billmyer, 65, who retired from Honda in 1989 as senior VP-auto sales and who spearheaded the creation of Honda's Acura unit, now faces up to five years in prison. Mr. Josleyn, 48, manager of Honda's Western sales zone-its largest-until 1992, faces a minimum of five years and a maximum of 35. Both men's attorneys promised they would appeal.

The verdicts are the culmination of a two-year Justice Department investigation into what it estimates was a nationwide conspiracy among sales managers and dealers to defraud Honda of more than $15 million. The investigation uncovered one scheme by Honda employees to pilfer $2.6 million out of a Honda direct mail ad fund.

Honda still faces more than a dozen lawsuits stemming from the improper activities of former managers.

The carmaker itself wasn't on trial, and the government steadfastly maintained Honda was the victim of rogue managers. But defense lawyers jabbed relentlessly at that premise.M

Mr. Chappell is a staff reporter for Automotive News.

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