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Navy commander arrested in massive bribes-for-secrets case

A serving U.S. Navy Commander became the seventeenth individual charged in the Navy’s worst corruption scandal in modern times.

Mario Herrera, 48, of Helotes, Texas was charged in a complaint unsealed Thursday.

He allegedly took expensive travel and meals and the services of prostitutes from Leonard Glenn Francis in exchange for classified U.S. Navy information.

Francis — also known as Fat Leonard — is the former CEO of Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), a defense contractor based in Singapore. The Malaysian national, 51, pleaded guilty to bribing scores of U.S. Navy officials with travel, meals, cash, electronics, parties, and prostitutes. He’s waiting to be sentenced.

His company provided port services to U.S. Navy ships in Asia. As part of his plea agreement, Francis admitted over-billing the Navy more than $35 million on contracts to stock and clean ships.

Herrera was arrested in San Antonio, Texas Thursday morning and charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery. He’s expected to appear in federal court in San Diego, where the Fat Leonard cases are being heard.  

According to the complaint, Herrera helped steer U.S. Navy contracts to Francis and GDMA. He gave Francis internal, proprietary U.S. Navy information and intervened on GDMA’s behalf in contract disputes, the DOJ said.

“Herrera directed ships to take alternative routes that benefited GDMA on two separate occasions, costing the U.S. Navy $3.6 million,” according to the DOJ.

Of the 17 individuals charged in the case, 13 have pleaded guilty.

Eleven defendants are current or former Navy officers. They include an admiral, two captains, four commanders, two lieutenant commanders, a former NCIS special agent, and a petty officer.

In addition to Fat Leonard, four other executives from his company have been charged — Alex Wisidagama, Ed Aruffo, Neil Peterson, and Linda Raja.

Wisidagama pleaded guilty and was sentenced in March to 63 months in prison and $34.8 million in restitution to the Navy. Aruffo has pleaded guilty and is waiting to be sentenced. Peterson and Raja were extradited from Singapore to the United States. Their cases are pending.

Other current or former U.S. Navy officials charged in the case include:

  • Admiral Robert Gilbeau (pleaded guilty)
  • Lt. Commander Gentry Debord (sentenced to 30 months in prison)
  • Commander Bobby Pitts (awaiting trial)
  • Captain Michael Brooks (pleaded guilty)
  • Captain Daniel Dusek (sentenced to 46 months in prison)
  • Commander Michael Misiewicz (sentenced to 78 months in prison)
  • Lt. Commander Todd Malaki (sentenced to 40 months in prison)
  • Commander Jose Luis Sanchez (pleaded guilty)
  • Former NCIS Supervisory Special Agent John Beliveau II (sentenced to 144 months in prison)
  • Petty Officer First Class Daniel Layug (sentenced to 27 in prison), and
  • Paul Simpkins, a former DoD civilian employee who oversaw Navy contracting in Singapore (sentenced to 72 months in prison).

Three other Rear Admirals including the commander of naval forces in Japan retired in 2015 after the Secretary of the Navy censured them for the Fat Leonard scandal.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.

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