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 pleads guilty to defrauding U.S. government

Oversaw steel tests for U.S. Navy submarines; faces prison sentence of up to 10 years

Elaine Thomas, 67, of Auburn pleaded guilty Nov. 8 in the U.S. District Court in Tacoma to defrauding the United States during her time as the director of metallurgy (extracting metals) at Bradken Inc., according to an U.S. Department of Justice news release.

Bradken Inc. operates the Tacoma foundry, which supplies steel for the U.S. Navy submarines. 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 Navy. According to court documents, she falsified results for 240 productions of steel, which account for a large portion of the steel Bradken sold the Navy.

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

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

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 Navy.

After the falsified test results were revealed, the 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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