Royal Navy Officer Dismissed For Fraud

A Royal Navy officer has been dismissed from the service after being found guilty of abusing a government MoD ''credit card'' to fund personal spending while on a work exchange in the US.

Lieutenant Commander Andrew Ball made a total of $2309.73 (£1,470) worth of fraudulent claims, including paying for his son's birthday party at a steakhouse, while on assignment at the US navy's war college in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

The married father of three also received a nine-month sentence suspended for two years and was ordered to pay the money back.

The Iraq veteran has now lost his 18-year career in the senior service and his £48,000-a-year job but he will keep his pension and a lump sum.

Ball, 41, faced nine charges of fraud relating to the work placement in 2009 and was found guilty of seven on Wednesday at the Portsmouth Court Martial. Two other charges, one relating to alleged fraudulent spending on car hire, were dropped.

Four of the charges related to Ball making authentic claims using an online expenses system but then paying for the services using the government procurement card while acting as ''ambassador'' for the navy in the US.

Captain Stuart Crozier, prosecuting, said this amounted to the senior officer, based at HMS Collingwood in Fareham, Hampshire, ''dishonestly'' claiming twice for the expenses.

Others charges included another fraudulent restaurant bill and a round of drinks at a golf club.

Ball claimed that he had had problems keeping up with the paperwork while in the US and was under pressure from work and family.

As his wife Julie wept, Ball was described in the Portsmouth hearing as a ''highly competent and able officer with significant operational and frontline experience''.

His defence counsel Christopher Wing asked the court martial panel to let Ball keep his job. He said he accepted his guilt and was remorseful but he never intended for his actions to be criminal.

The barrister asked: ''What is the effect to the Royal Navy losing such a highly qualified, able and experienced officer as much has been spent on his training and this acquisition of experience?''

But Judge Advocate Robert Hill said the fraud was ''systematic'' and aggravated by Ball's high rank.

He said the panel found the offences to be too serious and it would be unfair for the officer to keep his job under such circumstances just because he was good at it.