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Thai GDMA exec extradited as “Fat Leonard” probe continues

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Pornpun Settaphakorn, a former executive of foreign defense contractor Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA) who oversaw the company’s Thailand office, appeared in federal court in San Diego, March 8, following her extradition last week from Thailand.

Her extradition is the latest development in the years’ long so-called “Fat Leonard” bribery and fraud case centering around defense contractor Leonard Glenn Francis and his firm Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA).

The case has seen a seemingly endless parade of Navy officers and officials plead guilty to accepting bribes and favors in return for such things as furnishing GMDA with ship movement information or turning a blind eye to inflated billings.

One of the heaviest sentences handed down in the case was a 12year prison term imposed on a former NCIS special agent who admitted providing information that allowed Francis to avoid, stall and thwart criminal investigations into misconduct by GDMA, while a former Navy “Supply Officer of the Year” got a 30-month sentence for his role in the affair. A Navy rear admiral received 18 months in prison for lying to investigators to conceal his illicit 20-year relationship with Francis

Settaphakorn, also known as “Yin,” was charged with participating in a conspiracy to submit fraudulent price quotes, claims and invoices to the U.S. Navy in an effort to steal millions of dollars as part of a years-long fraud scheme.

The indictment in this case, returned December 23, 2014, alleges that Settaphakorn, along with co-defendants Neil Peterson and Linda Raja, among others, submitted false claims of more than $5 million. In addition, according to the indictment.

The Department of Justice says that Settaphakorn worked to perpetuate and cover up the fraud by consistently misrepresenting to the U.S. 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.

Settaphakorn is charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States with respect to claims; one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud; and multiple counts of making false claims.

Like Settaphakorn, co-defendants Peterson and Raja, both of Singapore, worked as chief deputies for foreign defense contractor Leonard Glenn Francis to fill the coffers of their company, GDMA, at the expense of the U.S. Navy.

Peterson served as GDMA’s Vice President for Global Operations, and Raja served as the company’s General Manager for Singapore, Australia, and the Pacific Isles. Peterson and Raja were extradited from Singapore in October 2016, and both have since pleaded guilty for their participation in the massive scheme to defraud the U.S Navy.

In 2017, Peterson was sentenced to 70 months in prison, and Raja to 46 months in prison. Both were ordered to pay $34.8 million in restitution. Peterson and Raja have served their sentences and been returned to Singapore.

At at a March 9 hearing, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Crawford, Settaphakorn was detained pending trial. The next hearing in this matter is April 9, 2021, before U.S. District Court Judge Janis Sammartino.

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