(NEWSnet/AP) – The Justice Department is pushing Boeing to plead guilty to criminal fraud in connection with two deadly plane crashes, according to several people who heard federal prosecutors detail a proposed offer Sunday.

Boeing will have until the end of the coming week to accept or reject the offer, which includes the aerospace company agreeing to an independent monitor who would oversee its compliance with anti-fraud laws, they said.

The case stems from the department’s determination that Boeing violated an agreement that was intended to resolve a 2021 charge of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government.

Prosecutors alleged at the time that Boeing misled regulators who approved the 737 Max and set pilot-training requirements to fly the plane. The company blamed two relatively low-level employees for the fraud.

The Justice Department told relatives of some of the 346 people who died in the 2018 and 2019 crashes about the plea offer during a video meeting. The family members, who want Boeing to face a criminal trial and to pay a $24.8 billion fine, reacted angrily.

Prosecutors told the families that if Boeing rejects the plea offer, the Justice Department would seek a trial in the matter, meeting participants said.

Boeing and the Justice Department declined to comment.

A conviction could jeopardize Boeing’s status as a federal contractor, according to some legal experts. The company has large contracts with the Pentagon and NASA.

However, federal agencies can give waivers to companies that are convicted of felonies to keep them eligible for government contracts. Lawyers for the crash victims’ families expect that would be done for Boeing.

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