A former metallurgist pleaded guilty in federal court in Tacoma, Wash., on Monday to falsifying test results about the strength of steel used to build U.S. submarines for more than three decades.
Elaine Thomas worked as director of metallurgy at Bradken Inc., the leading steel provider for the U.S. Navy's submarines. She pleaded guilty to major fraud and could face up to 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington.
In order to hide the fact that the steel failed certain quality tests, the 67-year-old falsified the test results for over 240 productions, including some that were used for naval submarines.
Bradken’s leadership was unaware of Thomas's behavior until May 2017, the statement said.
According to the indictment, Thomas changed the first number of the test results to increase the weight on tests that determined how much "dynamic force" the steel could tolerate, according to The New York Times.
Thomas's actions "caused the United States Navy to make contract payments that the Navy would not have made if it had known the true characteristics of the steel," the indictment said, per the Times.
John Carpenter, Thomas's attorney, said in a statement that his client "never intended to compromise the integrity of any material," according to the Times.
“This offense is unique in that it was neither motivated by greed nor any desire for personal enrichment. She regrets that she failed to follow her moral compass — admitting to false statements is hardly how she envisioned living out her retirement years,” Carpenter added.
U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle is scheduled to sentence Thomas on Feb. 14, 2022.
The Hill has reached out to the Navy for comment.