Embassy accuses Berkeley County man of fraudulent scheme

MARTINSBURG -- The Embassy of Papua New Guinea claims a Berkeley County man fraudulently obtained at least $94,000 while he worked as a senior diplomat. In a lawsuit filed Jan. 25 in Berkeley Circuit Court, the plaintiff claims Graham Michael had a long-running scheme to defraud the embassy and government of Papua New Guinea while he worked as a diplomat in Washington, D.C. While Michael served as the embassy's Charge d'Affairs, counselor and acting ambassador, the suit claims he "abused his official position and deliberately defrauded the Embassy through a pattern of fraudulent conduct." In May and August 2002, the suit claims Michael submitted false documents for repatriation in the amounts of $25,900 and $20,750, respectively. He also allegedly organized a company known as Chester Courier Consultants LLC and had the embassy issue the company a check for $23,420, allegedly for repatriation of personal effects to the Papua New Guinea government, although that was false. The suit claims Michael also told embassy employees in February 2004 that he planned to return and continue working there, although he had no intention of doing so. Based on that misrepresentation, Michael received an additional $18,699 in salary, plus $5,599 for tickets. (The suit did not specify what type of tickets.) Two months after he effectively resigned, the defendant wrongly secured a check from the embassy for $1,144.25, the plaintiff says. In the suit, filed by attorney D. Frank Hill, III, the embassy seeks to recover from Michael and his wife, Celine Ampaoi Michael, the fraudulently obtained funds and asks that the court impose a constructive trust on property the couple bought with those funds in Bunker Hill. The plaintiff also seeks court costs and further relief. The embassy requests a jury trial. The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge David H. Sanders. Berkeley Circuit Court case number: 06-C-42

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