Elaine Marie Thomas, a 67-year-old former director of metallurgy, worked from 1985 to 2017 at a Washington foundry called Bradken that supplied steel submarine hull castings to the US Navy. During that time, Thomas was responsible. of testing steel castings for strength and toughness. The tests were conducted in extremely cold temperatures (-100F, -70C), which helped ensure the material would not fail in the event of a collision or other dangerous circumstances. Thomas found it “stupid” that testing had to be done under such extreme conditions and falsely recorded positive results to make castings appear more durable than they could have been. It faked steel test results in at least 240 cases, a “substantial percentage of the castings Bradken produced for the Navy.” according to prosecutors.
Although the foundry changed ownership in 2008, evidence of Thomas’s fraudulent habits did not emerge until 2017, when a lab employee discovered that Thomas had tampered with the steel test cards. The United States Attorney’s Office filed a criminal complaint charging Thomas with Major Fraud against the United States. During the Navy’s initial investigation of Thomas’s crimes, it also found that Bradken had billed the Navy as if the castings sold had met rigorous standards that they never actually met. Since then, Bradken has been required to enter into a compliance agreement with the Navy, in which Bradken has been directed to create a compliance and risk committee, as well as to hire people who specifically oversee laboratory testing. and follow-up.
In 2020, Thomas entered into a deferred prosecution agreement that required him to admit his responsibility for falsifying test results and comply with certain corrective measures, including paying $ 10.8 million in fines. The agreement, if Thomas complies fully, will allow the government to dismiss all criminal charges after three years.
Fortunately, no submarine hulls under Thomas’ watch have failed. The Navy, at great financial cost, has taken steps to ensure that the affected submarines are operated safely since the discovery of the fraudulent test results.
Thomas is scheduled to be sentenced in February 2022. She faces up to 10 years in prison, in addition to a maximum fine of $ 1 million.