A ROYAL Navy officer used his government credit card to swindle the Ministry of Defence out of £2,600 while he was working in America, a court martial heard.
Lieutenant Commander Andrew Ball, who is now based at HMS Collingwood in Fareham, was on an exchange programme with the US Navy in 2009 when nine offences are alleged to have taken place.
The 41-year-old stands accused of misusing his government procurement card to pay $1,429 (£903) for a hire car in Orlando, Florida, and restaurant bills while he was stationed at the US Naval War College in Rhode Island.
He also allegedly used the Barclaycard, which was paid for directly by the MoD, to pay off utility bills he’d already claimed for through the MoD’s online expenses system.
Prosecutor Captain Stuart Crozier said an investigation into Ball’s expenses began when he used the card to pay for a car from Hertz in Orlando on July 31, 2009 – a claim he was not entitled to.
Capt Crozier said: ‘The key was the hire car bill in July 2009 which came to the attention of the British Defence Section and as a result an investigation was commenced by the Royal Navy Investigation Branch in September 2009 and handed over to the MoD police to pursue.’
The probe unveiled nine misuses of the card which stretched from January to August 2009, the court heard.
On four occasions, Ball is alleged to have used the card to pay for personal items, including the car hire bill, a $268 (£169) bill at the Sakura Steakhouse restaurant, $70 (£44) bill for the Beaver Bar and Grill and $889 (£563) to hire equipment from a Rent-A-Center store.
Five charges relate to Ball making ‘double claims’ by using his MoD card to pay for utility bills he’d already claimed for with the MoD – to the tune of $2,332 (£1,474).
The total amount of the expenses fraud totalled $4,192 (£2,653), the prosecution said.
The trial heard Ball had been briefed by the British Embassy in Washington before he was issued with the card. He had signed a memorandum of understanding that the MoD card could only be used to reimburse household costs such as rent and utility bills.
The trial heard Ball was interviewed by MoD detectives on two occasions, during which he said he’d made the expenses claims by mistake.
Capt Crozier said: ‘He said his personal administration had not been as good as it should have been to the extent he found himself overwhelmed by admin.’
He added: ‘He said the charges were done by way of an administrative error and were by accident.’