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UK couple admit fraud in US court


Paul Dunham has pleaded guilty to fraud charges in a US court

Paul Dunham has pleaded guilty to fraud charges in a US court

Paul Dunham has pleaded guilty to fraud charges in a US court

A retired British couple who lost their fight against extradition have pleaded guilty in the United States to fraud.

Paul Dunham, 59, and Sandra Dunham, 58, were flown to the US from Heathrow Airport in May, having lost a High Court battle in the UK against extradition the previous month.

They were taken to Northampton General Hospital in May after they took a drug overdose the night before they were due to hand themselves in to police and in turn to US marshals.

Senior District Judge Howard Riddle at Westminster Magistrates' Court concluded that they had deliberately taken an overdose to avoid or delay extradition.

Later the couple, from Northampton, were handed over to US marshals at Heathrow by officers from the Metropolitan Police's extradition unit.

A statement on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Maryland said the couple yesterday pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud in connection with a scheme in which they requested reimbursement from their employer for mortgage payments on time shares in Barbados, luxury bedding for their home, a dog sofa and other personal expenses. Mr Dunham also pleaded guilty to money laundering.

According to their pleas, the defendants worked for Pace Worldwide which was located at various times in Maryland and North Carolina, and had a subsidiary in the United Kingdom named Pace Europe Ltd.

Pace produced parts for the repair and reworking of electronics for the military and others.

Mr Dunham held a number of executive positions, including president and chief operating officer. Mrs Dunham was initially hired to work for the European subsidiary in the accounts department, and eventually became the director of sales and marketing for Pace Worldwide.

The Dunhams moved from the UK to Maryland then North Carolina, and were provided with corporate credit cards.

Between 2002 and 2009, they fraudulently charged personal expenses to their corporate credit cards and submitted vouchers to Pace for reimbursement that falsely described the expenditures as business expenses, the statement said.

For example, Mr Dunham represented that 3,007 US dollars (£1,900) had been spent on meals during business meetings, when in fact the money was spent on luxury bedding for his North Carolina residence.

Mrs Dunham sought reimbursement for 8,397 dollars (£5,330) which she represented as expenses incurred to cancel a holiday due to a business meeting, when these expenses were actually mortgage payments the couple made on two separate time share units they had bought in Barbados.

Other personal expenses which were falsely described as business expenditures included personal legal fees, expensive furniture, a domed pet residence and a dog sofa.

The couple also fraudulently billed Pace Europe Ltd for business expenses already paid by Pace Worldwide, obtaining duplicate reimbursements, the statement said.

In addition, a substantial portion of the scheme involved Mr Dunham abusing a private position of trust to manage and direct others, including his secretary, in the execution of the scheme.

Moreover, he repeatedly forged receipts and invoices to create the false appearance that they were for business, rather than personal expenses.

As a result of the lengthy scheme, one million dollars (£635,500) in actual losses were incurred. The couple have agreed to forfeit and pay restitution of that amount, the statement said.

Mr Dunham faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the conspiracy and money laundering. Mrs Dunham and the US government have agreed that if the court accepts the plea agreement, she will be sentenced to 60 days in jail.

US District Judge Paul Grimm has scheduled sentencing for both defendants for January 29.