U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, holds a model of a ship hull while posing with officials including (second from left) Martin Kao, the former CEO of Martin Defense Group, in this 2019 photo provided by Collins' office. Kao on Tuesday pleaded guilty to illegally contributing to Collins’ 2020 campaign and a political action committee that supported her. Credit: Courtesy of the Office of Susan Collins

A former defense contractor from Hawaii pleaded guilty on Tuesday to illegally contributing to Sen. Susan Collins’ 2020 campaign and a political action committee that supported her.

Martin Kao, the former CEO of Navatek, a Hawaii-based defense contractor, pleaded guilty to conspiracy, funneling contributions, and two counts of making false statements to authorities, according to the Portland Press Herald. Kao renamed Navatek the Martin Defense Group in 2020.

He was indicted in February for creating a shell company to donate $150,000 to the 1820 PAC, a super PAC created to support Collins. He was also under investigation for paying employees and family members to donate to her campaign in violation of federal campaign finance laws.

The shell company was called the Society of Young Women Scientists and Engineers, according to the Portland Press Herald.

Neither the February indictment nor statements made in court on Tuesday reflected involvement in the scheme from Collins’ campaign, which said it had no knowledge of Kao’s actions. Collins’ campaign committee reiterated Wednesday in a statement to the Portland newspaper that there was no indication of wrongdoing by Collins’ campaign.

Kao was also   charged in 2020 for allegedly attempting to defraud the Paycheck Protection Program, a small business loan program Congress passed in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. He stepped down as CEO of Martin Defense Group in November 2020,   according to the Hawaii Star-Advertiser.

The company had   won an $8 million U.S. Navy contract in 2019 to design boat hulls in Portland.

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Leela Stockley

Leela Stockley is an alumna of the University of Maine. She was raised in northern Maine, and loves her cat Wesley, her puppy Percy and staying active in the Maine outdoors.