A 41-year-old Thai woman was recently extradited and charged with defrauding the U.S. Navy to the tune of $5 million for her alleged role in the infamous “Fat Leonard” bribery case. The scandal has so far seen at least 33 people charged and the ruin of high-ranking officials, and cost taxpayers an estimated $35 million.
Pornpun Settaphakron pleaded not guilty on Monday in federal court in San Diego to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and multiple counts of false claims, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office statement.
Prosecutors allege that Settaphakron turned in $5 million worth of false claims while she managed the Thailand office of the Singapore-based contractor Glenn Defense Marine Asia. The judge ordered her detained. Her next court appearance is scheduled for April 9.
That defense company was owned and operated by Leonard Glenn Francis, commonly known as “Fat Leonard.”
Francis’ company, GDMA, performed services ranging from docking, refueling and sewage removal in Singapore and throughout the region.
To get the lucrative Navy contracts, Francis bribed numerous military officials with thousands of dollars in cash, prostitutes, luxury motels and parties.
For her part, prosecutors allege that Settaphakron used altered letterhead for fake documents, gave false price quotes from nonexistent subcontractors.
She eluded charges while two of her co-defendants, Neil Peterson and Linda Raja were both indicted in 2014, pleaded guilty and were sentenced in 2017.
Peterson was sentenced to nearly six years at the time, but was put on supervised release in late 2020. Raja was sentenced to nearly four years and has since also been placed on supervised release, according to court documents.
Both owe the government $34.8 million in restitution.
Though the three were charged with incidents between 2011 and 2013, the GDMA scandal goes back much further.
Court documents note that the company had been in operation providing services to the Navy for 25 years as of 2014. Prosecutors have alleged that some of Francis’ connections within the Navy were on his bribery payroll as early as at least 2001.
Francis has cooperated with law enforcement in the investigation and has not yet been sentenced for his role.
To date, 23 of the at least 33 people charged have pleaded guilty in the wide-ranging and long-running bribery scandal.
The highest-ranking so far was recently retired Rear Adm. Robert Gilbeau, who was reduced in rank to captain by the Navy and then sentenced to 18 months in prison by a federal judge in 2017.
Other U.S. military officials who were involved in the scandal include retired Capt. William Haas and retired Chief Petty Officer Brooks Alonzo Parks, who both pleaded guilty in June 2020.
Hass admitted to receiving $91,000, and a days-long party in Indonesia that included prostitution services. Parks admitted he pocketed $25,000 and a stay at a $3,000-a-night hotel at a Hilton in Singapore.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.