British woman extradited to US to face fraud charges can go home within weeks

A British woman who with her husband lost a long and public fight against being extradited to the United States to face fraud charges will be able to return home within weeks.

A judge on Thursday said Sandra Dunham, who pleaded guilty to stealing $1 million from a US-based electronics company, must serve 18 days of home confinement before she can return to her home in Northampton, England. Dunham's husband, Paul Dunham, who also pleaded guilty in the case, will be sentenced next week and is expected to serve a prison sentence. The pair's plea agreements order them to repay the $1 million they stole, but they have said they are broke.

The couple acknowledged as part of plea agreements late last year that between 2002 and 2009 they stole from their employer, North Carolina-based Pace Inc., by charging personal expenses to corporate credit cards and submitting fraudulent reimbursement requests. Some of the money they stole paid for luxury bedding and for the mortgage on two time share units they had purchased in Barbados.

Sandra Dunham had been director of sales and marketing for Pace, which makes equipment to install and remove electronics components from circuit boards and employs about 70 people worldwide. Her husband was at one point the company's president. While working for Pace the couple lived in Maryland and North Carolina.

At Thursday's court hearing in federal court prosecutor David Salem said that the couple's criminal activity was "a significant fraud" but one that had the "fingerprints of Paul Dunham" more than his wife.

Sandra Dunham, 58, spoke only briefly in court, calling her experience "a complete nightmare." Judge Paul W. Grimm told her he had hoped to hear "some expression of remorse" for her crimes and that he hoped that when she returned to England she would look for a way to volunteer and give back.

"I will do it," she said. "I've already started."

Dunham pleaded guilty in December to conspiring to commit wire fraud, and a plea agreement called for a sentence of 30 days in jail and 30 days of home detention. Judge Grimm imposed that sentence Thursday, but since Dunham spent 42 days in confinement during and immediately after her extradition to the United States, she must serve only 18 more days of home confinement.

Before Dunham and her husband were brought to the United States in May they fought a long battle to avoid extradition by appealing to Britain's High Court and the European Court of Human Rights. They raised concerns over their health and possible treatment in U.S. custody, but both courts rejected their bids.

They also attempted to kill themselves with a drug overdose the day before they were due to be flown out of Britain.

Paul Dunham repeatedly told reporters that their extradition was "disproportionate" and complained that the British justice system had let them down. Critics of the U.S.-Britain extradition agreement have long argued that it allows American authorities to demand the extradition of British citizens without presenting significant evidence, and that the treaty is lopsided because it is easier to extradite a British citizen to the U.S. than vice versa.


Associated Press reporter Sylvia Hui contributed to this report from London.


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