Contractor appears in US court in fraud case

Contractor appears in US court in fraud case

A Thai woman extradited to the United States and accused of participating in a US$5 million (152.7 million baht) scheme by Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA) to defraud the US navy made her first appearance in court on Monday, according to the US Department of Justice (DoJ).

Pornpun Settaphakorn, former executive with the Singapore defence contractor, is in hot water for allegedly submitting false financial claims with her colleagues, including a GDMA chief executive officer, for years.

Ms Pornpun appeared in a federal court in San Diego on Monday, according to the DoJ. Last week she was extradited from Thailand, it said.

"[The suspect] was charged with participating in a conspiracy to submit fraudulent price quotes, claims and invoices to the US Navy in an effort to steal millions of dollars as part of a years-long fraud scheme," the statement said.

At the hearing, US Magistrate Judge Karen S Crawford reportedly sent Ms Pornpun to jail pending a trial. The next hearing is expected to be held on April 9, before US District Court Judge Janis L Sammartino.

Ms Pornpun "worked to perpetuate and cover up the fraud by consistently misrepresenting to the US Navy the cost of providing services to its ships in Asia, even going so far as to submit false price quotes from non-existent companies, on letterhead created from graphics cut and pasted from the internet," the statement said.

It added she is charged with two counts of conspiracy and multiple counts of making false claims.

According to the statement, Ms Pornpun, co-defendants Neil Peterson and Linda Raja and others submitted false claims of more than US$5 million.

Peterson and Raja, said to be Singaporean nationals, "worked as chief deputies for foreign defence contractor Leonard Glenn Francis to fill the coffers of their company, GDMA, at the expense of the US Navy."

The pair was reportedly extradited from Singapore in October 2016 and have since pleaded guilty for their participation in scheme.

The statement said Peterson was sentenced to 70 months in prison while Raja was sent to 46 months in prison. They were also reportedly ordered to pay US$34.8 million in restitution.

"Peterson and Raja have served their sentences and been returned to Singapore," the statement said.

It said that Randy S Grossman, acting US attorney for the Southern District of California, praised prosecutors and law enforcement agents for working on the case.

The events, dubbed the "Fat Leonard Scandal" online, reportedly started in 2006 and have highlighted corruption within the US navy.

According to the Washington Post, "the investigation has revealed how Francis seduced the Navy's storied 7th Fleet."

"Whoever you are, wherever you are in the world, and however long it takes, justice awaits those who imperil the US Navy," Mr Grossman said as quoted by the DoJ statement.

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