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A U.S. Navy civilian employee buckling under the weight of massive student loan debt but “infatuated” with European travel allegedly hatched a scheme to improperly funnel more than $26 million worth of military contracts to an Italian company she hoped would hire her away.
Mechanical engineer Nicole Kristen Schuster allegedly helped rig bids in favor of a Milan-based supplier of highly specialized vertical lathes and milling machines used to fabricate submarine propellers and other crucial parts, a Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) search warrant affidavit obtained by The Daily Beast reveals. To sweeten the deal, it says, Schuster regularly baked homemade cookies for the Italians in an ongoing effort to “be in [their] good graces.”
Schuster, 32, worked at the Naval Foundry and Propeller Center (NFPC) in Philadelphia from 2015 to 2020, followed by a posting to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, the affidavit states. She served as project lead on several multimillion-dollar projects supporting both Columbia Class and Virginia Class submarines, according to prosecutors.