FORMER PNG AMBASSADOR SENTENCED FOR FRAUD IN U.S.

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Jan. 7) - A former Charge d’Affair and acting ambassador for Papua New Guinea to the United States, Graham Michael, has been sentenced in the U.S. for fraud.

Michael was sentenced in connection with his prior guilty plea to defrauding the embassy.

Michael, 42, who now lives in Bunker Hill, West Virginia, appeared for sentencing last week in the U.S. district court before Judge John D. Bates, who sentenced him to five years of probation, with 250 hours of community service, and ordered him to make restitution to the embassy of US$70,052.

Because Michael is not a citizen of the United States, his conviction may subject him to detention, deportation and other sanctions at the direction of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Michael was employed as the Charge d’Affair/acting ambassador and counsel for approximately six and a half years for the embassy.

Michael tendered his resignation from the embassy effective April 30, 2004, with the understanding he would return to Port Moresby.

He failed to return and was officially terminated on December 7, 2004.

In conjunction with his planned repatriation, Michael committed a series of fraudulent transactions against the embassy.

According to evidence before the court, on April 1, 2002, the embassy sold the residence it owned, and in which defendant Michael was living, in the 5000 block of Cathedral Place, NW, Washington, D.C. for US$530,000.

The embassy sold the property on its own without using a real estate company.

Shortly after the closing, Michael approached the embassy administrative officer (AO) and asked him to insert a US$26,000 broker fee.

The AO did so on or about April 22, 2002.

On June 3, 2002, Michael requested the AO to write him a check for US$25,900 from the embassy’s bank account where the proceeds of the sale had been deposited.

Michael told the AO that the funds were to be used for his repatriation to PNG. The AO did so, although this was not the normal procedure for obtaining repatriation funds. Several days later, Michael gave the AO a US$5,000 check for his assistance.

In July 2002, Michael obtained permission from embassy headquarters to send some of his possessions back to PNG.

Three quotes were obtained to pay for the shipping, which quotes were sent to Port Moresby for approval.

After obtaining approval, Michael told the AO he was going to pay for the shipping himself.

On July 29, 2002, Michael gave the AO a copy of a personal check for US$20,750 from Michael to Colonial Moving and Storage Co.

Michael told the AO that he paid the movers himself and wanted to be reimbursed by the embassy. On August 8, 2002, the AO gave Michael an embassy check for US$20,750 to pay the reimbursement.

Colonial Moving and Storage Co went out of business in July 2002.

It never shipped Michael’s items and accordingly, did not receive a payment of US$20,750 from Michael to do so.

In March 2004, the AO received three quotes from couriers to move Michael’s personal effects back to PNG.

The lowest quote was from Chester Courier Consultants (CCC) and was given to the AO by Michael.

On March 25, 2004, the AO drafted a check from the Embassy to CCC for US$23,402 and gave the check to Michael to be provided to CCC.

Investigation in this matter showed that Michael’s goods were never shipped back to PNG.

Further, the investigation showed that CCC was set up by Michael himself.

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