The ballistic-missile submarine USS Henry M. Jackson (SSBN 730) arrives home at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor following a strategic deterrent patrol in this 2015 file photo. Courtesy of the U.S. Navy

The ballistic-missile submarine USS Henry M. Jackson (SSBN 730) arrives home at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor following a strategic deterrent patrol in this 2015 file photo. Courtesy of the U.S. Navy

Auburn woman charged with defrauding U.S. government over steel produced for Navy

Elaine Thomas, 67, of Auburn pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court in Tacoma to defrauding the United States during her time as the Director of Metallurgy at Bradken Inc., according to the Department of Justice.

Bradken Inc. operates the Tacoma foundry, which supplies steel for the U.S. Navy submarines, according to the Department of Justice. In order for the Navy to buy steel, the steel has to pass certain tests for its strength and durability, according to the Department of Justice.

Thomas falsified results to hide the fact the steel did not pass the strength and durability tests required by the U.S. Navy, according to the Department of Justice.

Thomas falsified results for 240 productions of steel, which account for a large portion of the steel Bradken sold the Navy, according to the Department of Justice.

Thomas now faces up to 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine. She will be sentenced on Feb. 14, 2022, by U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle, according to the Department of Justice.

There is no evidence that Bradken management was aware Thomas was falsifying the test results until 2017, according to the Department of Justice. In May 2017, a lab employee discovered Thomas’s test cards had been altered and there were inconsistencies in her records, according to the Department of Justice.

In June 2020, Bradken accepted responsibility for the offenses and agreed to fix the issues. Bradken also paid $10.9 million for selling substandard steel to the U.S. Navy, according to the Department of Justice.

After the falsified test results were revealed, the U.S. Navy had to take steps to ensure the submarines affected by the substandard steel were safe to operate, resulting in increased costs, according to the Department of Justice.


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