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SEPTEMBER 2020

US Federal Prosecutors Claim Company Provided Faulty Steel For Navy Submarines

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US Federal Prosecutors Claim Company Provided Faulty Steel For Navy Submarines

USS North Carolina

In court documents filed by Federal prosecutors on Monday they claim that for decades, the Navy’s leading supplier of high-strength steel for submarines provided subpar metal because one of the company’s employees falsified lab results — putting sailors at greater risk in the event of collisions or other impacts.

The supplier, Kansas City-based Bradken Inc., paid $10.9 million as part of a deferred prosecution agreement, the Justice Department said. The company provides steel castings used by Navy contractors Electric Boat and Newport News Shipbuilding to make submarine hulls.

In 2008 Bradken acquired a foundry in Tacoma, Washington, that produced steel castings for the Navy. Federal prosecutors allege that Bradken learned in 2017 that the foundry’s director of metallurgy had been falsifying the results of laboratory tests, indicating that the steel was strong enough to meet the Navy’s requirements when in fact it was not.

Prosecutors say the company initially disclosed its findings to the Navy but then wrongfully suggested that the discrepancies were not the result of fraud. That hindered the Navy’s investigation into the scope of the problem as well as its efforts to address the potential risks to the ships’ crew, prosecutors said.

“Bradken placed the Navy’s sailors and its operations at risk,” Seattle U.S. Attorney Brian Moran said in a news release. “Government contractors must not tolerate fraud within their organizations, and they must be fully forthcoming with the government when they discover it.”

There is no allegation in the court documents that any submarine parts failed, but Moran said the Navy had incurred increased costs and maintenance requirements to ensure the submarines remain seaworthy. The government did not disclose which submarines were affected.

The foundry’s director of metallurgy, Elaine Thomas, 66, of Auburn, Washington, faces criminal charges with one count of major fraud against the United States. Thomas, who worked in various capacities at the laboratory for 40 years, was due to make an initial appearance in federal court on June 30. Her attorney, John Carpenter, declined to comment. LINK

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