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2 Former Executives Sentenced in ‘Fat Leonard' Navy Bribery Scandal

A total of 27 defendants have been charged in connection to the investigation against "Fat Leonard" and his company.

Two former Singapore executives for foreign defense contractor Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA) were sentenced Friday for their involvement in a multi-million dollar Navy bribery scheme.

Neil Peterson, 39, and Linda Raja, 44, pleaded guilty on May 9 of this year to conspiring to submit bogus bids, claims and invoices to the U.S. Navy. 

Peterson served as the Vice President for Malaysian businessman Leonard Glenn Francis, known by his nickname “Fat Leonard." Raja was as General Manager for Singapore, Australia and the Pacific Isles.

Both were arrested in Singapore last year and extradited to the U.S. on Oct. 28.

Friday, Raja was sentenced to three years and 10 months in prison. Peterson was sentenced to five years and 10 months behind bars Friday.

Peterson worked for Francis's company for 20 years, starting after his high school graduation.

His lawyer acknowledged in court that Peterson was "part of the conspiracy, no doubt", and that he "crossed the lines knowingly, willingly, and did things he knew hurt the United States Navy and the U.S. government."

Prosecutors said Peterson had a significant role in the $35 million fraud.

But his lawyer argued that Peterson "tried to redeem himself by readily admitting his guilt" when confronted by investigators.

Prosecutors confirmed that Peterson has cooperated with investigators by sharing information about how the contracting scam worked. Peterson also spent three months in jail in Singapore--which his lawyer described as a horrific, torturous experience that makes U.S. federal prison seem comfortable in comparison.

Evidence in the case revealed that Francis kept Peterson loyal and involved in the fraud by giving him regular pay raises and rewarding him for helping with the scheme.

Raja was a flight attendant before joining GDMA.

According to her lawyer, Raja "knew it was wrong" to defraud U.S. tax payers. He claimed his client suffers from "shame and remorse" for her actions.

In court, Raja, like Peterson, apologized tearfully to the judge and said she takes responsibility for her actions.

Back in May, Peterson and Raja admitted to submitting fraudulent claims and invoices to the U.S. Navy which contained false prices and information from actual businesses. The fraud was done to ensure GDMA's quote would be chosen as the lowest bidder by the U.S. Navy.

In their plea agreement, Raja and Peterson also admitted to inflating prices set by the Port Authorities so Francis' company could charge more to the Navy.

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NBC 7 has been following this investigation since September 2013.

A total of 27 defendants have been charged in connection to the investigation against "Fat Leonard" and his company. Seventeen of the defendants, including Peterson and Raja, have plead guilty.

In January 2015, “Fat Leonard” plead guilty to bribing senior Navy officials in exchange for specific U.S. Navy warship movements so his company could overbill the Pentagon.

Rear Admiral Robert Gilbeau became the first highest-ranking U.S. Navy officer to be charged in the case in June, 2016. He pleaded guilty to one felony charge in connection to the years-long corruption and fraud scheme. 

Former civilian Defense Department Officer Paul Simpkins also entered a guilty plea in a federal court in San Diego.

Judge Janis L. Sammartino called the scheme "a cancer on the American public" and noted that the defendants as a group will be responsible for paying back the stolen taxpayer money.

But Sammartino acknowledged that Peterson and Raja will never have the means to repay millions of dollars.

Both were ordered to start by paying $25 every three months while in prison, and $100 a month when they are released from custody.

"Fat Leonard" and other defendants who have more assets could be ordered to pay significantly more when they are sentenced.

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