Ex-defense contractor who admitted to COVID aid fraud pleads guilty in separate case

A former defense contractor has pleaded guilty to campaign finance charges.
Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 4:10 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 27, 2022 at 4:12 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A former defense contractor has pleaded guilty to campaign finance charges.

Martin Kao previously pleaded guilty to defrauding the government Paycheck Protection Program of millions meant for companies struggling in the pandemic. Kao was the CEO of the Martin Defense Group, which was a major contractor for the Department of Defense, NASA and other government agencies.

According to plea agreement, the 48-year-old admitted to conspiring to make a false name contribution and of making false statements on his campaign disclosures.

Kao and two other employees ― Clifford Chen and Lawrence Lum Kee ― are accused of funneling more than $200,000 to the 2020 election campaign of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, of Maine.

In 2019, Collins awarded the group’s defense firm a contract in her state.

She denies knowledge of the donations and has not been charged.

Cases against Chen and Lum Kee are pending.

All three face up to five years in prison for the campaign finance charges.

“This is precisely the way that campaign spending laws are supposed to work,” said investigative journalist Ian Lind. “They’re supposed to crack down on people who use money to attempt to influence lawmakers.”

In addition to these charges, Kao pleaded guilty earlier this month on fraud and money laundering charges. He admitted to taking millions of dollars from a program designed to protect pandemic-stricken businesses.

Hawaii News Now was there in 2020 when the FBI raided the company offices and arrested CEO Martin Kao.

The company, formerly known as Navatek, is now under new management.

Kao faces up to 30 years in prison on the fraud charges when he is sentenced in January. He also will be sentenced on the lesser campaign charges on February. His attorney declined comment.