Three senior Navy officers — two of them active and one retired — were charged in documents unsealed Friday for their roles in a massive bribery scheme involving a Singapore-based contractor that compromised U.S. national security.
Charged in federal court in San Diego were retired Navy Captain Michael Brooks, 57, of Fairfax Station, Virginia, Commander Bobby Pitts, 47, of Chesapeake, Virginia, and Lieutenant Commander Gentry Debord, 47, who’s based in Singapore.
Brooks and Debord each face one count of conspiracy to commit bribery. Pitts faces one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and two counts of obstruction of justice.
All of the charges relate to the defendants’ dealings with Leonard Glenn Francis — also known as Fat Leonard — the former CEO of Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA). The firm provided U.S. Navy ships at ports throughout Asia with food, fuel, cleaning, and other port services.
Brooks and Pitts made their initial appearances Friday in federal court in Virginia. Debord appeared in federal court in San Diego.
All three posted bond and are scheduled to appear in court again on June 9 and 10.
Brooks served as the U.S. Naval Attaché to the Philippines in the U.S. Embassy in Manila from 2006 to 2008. In exchange for travel and entertainment expenses, hotel rooms, and the services of prostitutes, he allegedly arranged diplomatic clearances for GDMA vessels.
Diplomatic clearance limited the amount of custom fees and taxes GDMA paid in the Philippines and allowed the vessels to avoid all cargo inspections.
The DOJ also alleged that Brooks provided Francis with sensitive Navy information, including ship schedules, and prices a GDMA competitor charged the U.S. Navy.
Pitts was the Officer in Charge of the Navy’s Fleet Industrial Supply Command from August 2009 to May 2011. He directed the logistical needs of the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet.
The indictment alleged that in exchange for entertainment, meals, and the services of a prostitute, Pitts used his position to interfere with NCIS investigations into GDMA. He allegedly gave Francis a hard copy of an NCIS report detailing an investigation into contract fraud marked “for official use only.” The report identified witnesses and gave the content of their testimony.
Debord served in several logistical and supply positions in the Western Pacific. The DOJ said he took cash, hotel stays, and the services of prostitutes. He allegedly gave Francis information about competitors’ bids and the federal investigation into GDMA’s billing practices. He and Francis also allegedly agreed to inflate GDMA invoices.
In September 2013, federal agents lured Francis, a Malaysia citizen, to California by “dangling a meeting with admirals who hinted they had lucrative contracts to offer,” the Washington Post said.
He was arrested in his hotel suite in San Diego.
Francis, 51, has pleaded guilty to fraud and bribery charges.
Thirteen individuals have now been charged in the case. Nine of them have pleaded guilty.
Five, including four U.S. Navy officers, have been sentenced:
Petty Officer First Class Dan Layug, jailed 27 months
Lieutenant Commander Todd Malaki, sentenced to 40 months in prison
Alex Wisidagama, a former GDMA employee, sentenced to 63 months in prison and ordered to pay $34.8 million in restitution to the Navy
Captain Daniel Dusek, sentenced to 46 months in prison, and
Captain Michael Misiewicz, sentenced to 78 months in prison.
NCIS Special Agent John Beliveau and U.S. Navy Commander Jose Luis Sanchez have pleaded guilty and are waiting to be sentenced.
Former Department of Defense Senior Executive Paul Simpkins awaits trial.
Three rear admirals including the commander of naval forces in Japan announced their retirements in early 2015 after the secretary of the Navy censured them for the bribery scandal.
The Washington Post has called the Fat Leonard scandal “perhaps the worst national-security breach of its kind to hit the Navy since the end of the Cold War.”
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He’ll be the keynote speaker at the FCPA Blog NYC Conference 2016.