Two ex-executives charged in U.S. Navy-related bribery case

September 15, 2016 1:36 PM EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two former executives of a foreign defense contractor at the center of a fraud and corruption scandal have been charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Navy and other offenses, the United States Department of Justice said on Thursday.

The filing of the charges represented a widening of a U.S. criminal probe known as the Fat Leonard case, in reference to the nickname for a Malaysian businessman named Leonard Glenn Francis at the center of the scandal.

In the latest arrests, Neil Peterson, 38, and Linda Raja, 43, both of Singapore, were taken into custody by authorities in Singapore at the request of the U.S. government, federal prosecutors said in a statement.

The two worked for Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), which was owned by Francis, who pleaded guilty to bribery charges last year. Peterson was the firm's vice president for global operations and Raja was its general manager for Singapore, Australia and the Pacific Isles, prosecutors said.

Both Peterson and Raja were charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and multiple counts of making false claims, the Justice Department said.

Peterson and Raja submitted more than $5 million in false claims and invoices to the U.S. Navy and covered up their fraud by, among other things, creating fake letterhead with graphics copied off the Internet, prosecutors said.

It was not clear if Peterson or Raja have obtained an attorney to represent them in the U.S. court system.

In June, U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Robert Gilbeau pleaded guilty to a charge of lying to federal investigators, making him the highest-ranking officer to be convicted in the case. Gilbeau is awaiting sentencing.

Sixteen people, including 11 current or former U.S. Navy officials, have been charged in the investigation, prosecutors said.

(Reporting by Mohammad Zargham in Washington and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; editing by Grant McCool)



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