Northampton

Paul and Sandra Dunham US fraud 'nearly put us under'

File picture of Paul and Sandra Dunham Image copyright PA
Image caption Paul and Sandra Dunham denied any wrong-doing at the US company they formerly worked for

Paul and Sandra Dunham had protested their innocence with a quiet determination. Faced with charges of fraud from their time in the US, the Northamptonshire couple denied any wrongdoing and campaigned against their extradition.

But a few weeks before their trial was due to start, the pair struck a plea bargain with US authorities and admitted their guilt.

In numerous interviews, Mr Dunham had claimed their extradition was "disproportionate" and the case was just an "employment-related dispute" with Pace, the company they had worked for.

He claimed they were "totally let down" by the British justice system, that their lives were "shattered" and that they faced months or perhaps years on remand in separate US jails.

They even appeared to have attempted to take their own lives, hours before they were due to be flown out to Maryland.

The Dunhams certainly garnered support and sympathy from some quarters during their drawn-out fight, but Eric Siegel was resolutely unconvinced.

'Completely violated'

As president and chief executive of Pace Worldwide, he considered the Dunhams as "part of the Pace family for well over 30 years".

"I feel completely violated, as do many current and former employees at the company," he told the BBC.

"Their fraud nearly put us under. The fact we're still in business is a miracle."

Image caption The home of Paul and Sandra Dunham in Collingtree, Northamptonshire

Both Mr Dunham, 59 and Mrs Dunham, 58, admitted conspiring to commit wire fraud.

He pleaded guilty to an additional charge of money laundering.

Mr Siegel brought Paul Dunham over to the US in 1999 to help run operations for the company, which manufactures soldering irons for the electronics industry.

'Mountain of evidence'

He believes Mr Dunham had his eyes on succeeding him when he left the company in 2003.

"I think Paul had designs on taking over the company, and he wasn't happy working with me or the fact I was the co-chairman and president at the time and he was really just the chief operating officer," he said.

"I think he was quite envious of that and didn't want to be told what to do."

Image caption The couple conducted a high profile campaign to protest their innocence

In 2009, Mr Siegel was back at Pace and had suspicions about the couple's activities. By then, Paul Dunham was chief executive and his wife sales director.

Mr Siegel gathered a "mountain of evidence" and the following year won a civil case against the couple in North Carolina.

It sparked a criminal investigation by the Department of Justice and FBI, and the bringing of charges for which they have now been convicted.

'Warped sense'

The Dunhams, meanwhile, claimed Mr Siegel had a personal vendetta against them, somehow influencing the interest of the authorities - which he describes as "laughable" and "absolutely ridiculous".

"If I had that kind of power it would be amazing," he said.

"I recall Paul Dunham did a news piece saying 'anyone could walk into a federal grand jury and accuse somebody of something and they'll go ahead and indict them.

"I'm afraid it doesn't work that way."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Paul Dunham admitted money laundering in a plea agreement with US authorities

They also claimed they owned 20% of the company, that Mr Dunham was in charge and he did everything he was entitled to.

"I believe he thought he was entitled to it, but he has a very warped sense of right and wrong and everyone else would call it fraud and theft," said Mr Siegel.

"We won the civil case, then we brought the judgment over in the UK to domesticate it and have it ratified here.

"They did very vigorously fight the domestication of the judgement in the UK, but they lost.

"The notion they didn't have a chance to address or answer the charge is quite ridiculous."

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