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Sleaze in the Seventh Fleet: The Lion King’s Harem

The group of top Navy officers allegedly on the take called themselves the Cool Kids, this Band of Brothers, the Brotherhood, the Wolfpack, the familia, and the Lion King’s Harem.

The Lion King was Leonard Glenn Francis, aka Fat Leonard, the 350-pound Malaysian owner and boss of Glenn Defense Marine Asia.

His Singapore-based company also operated in Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Korea, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Australia, the Philippines and the United States — exactly where it needed to be to take care of the mighty Seventh Fleet.

For more than a decade, Glenn Defense Marine Asia sold the Navy food, fuel, and water. It hauled away trash and pumped out liquid waste. Sometimes it provided tug boat service, and transported Navy personnel between ship and shore.

Among those in the Lion King’s Harem, according to the DOJ’s latest indictment, were at least three Navy Captains — “Newly,” “Rick” and “Too Tall.”  There was a Marine Corp Colonel nicknamed “Bubbles,” and a Navy Commander called “Choke.” There was even an Admiral.

Francis himself was arrested in 2013 in San Diego. He pleaded guilty to bribing scores of Navy officers with a steady stream of airline tickets, hotel stays, meals, cash, electronics, boozy parties, and prostitutes.

The bribes allegedly helped Francis’ company win approvals for inflated invoices and claims for more compensation, and quash bid protests filed by competitors. The graft also gave Francis special access to Navy ships, which the officers sometimes moved to certain ports-of-call so that Francis’ company could service them, the DOJ said.

The Seventh Fleet was established in 1943, in the middle of World War Two. It’s still America’s largest forward-deployed fleet with 60 to 70 ships, up to 300 aircraft, and about 40,000 Sailors and Marines.

The area of operations for the Seventh Fleet is the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean, and Arabian Gulf — some 52 million square miles. That’s more than 14 times the size of the entire continental United States.

Command of the Seventh Fleet rests with the flag ship USS Blue Ridge. According to the DOJ, the Lion King’s Harem occupied the top rungs of the Seventh Fleet and the USS Blue Ridge.

One Harem member had been the Commanding Officer of the USS Blue Ridge. Another served as the Blue Ridge’s Chief of Staff, responsible for administrative oversight of all aspects of the Seventh Fleet, including de facto control when the Seventh Fleet Commander was out of the region.

An officer named in the indictment was the Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations aboard the supercarrier USS Kitty Hawk, responsible for directing the operations of all combat ships in the Seventh Fleet.

Another coordinated all missions of the U.S. Marine Corps within the Seventh Fleet’s area of operations — including deployments of Marines to Iraq and Afghanistan.

There was the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence for the Seventh Fleet, whose role included assessing and counteracting foreign intelligence threats.

One of the Navy Captains was responsible for meeting the logistical needs of every Navy ship inside the Seventh Fleet’s area of operations.

The Executive Officer of the USS Abraham Lincoln, an aircraft carrier, was also named in the indictment.

In all, the DOJ said, there were 22 members of the alleged conspiracy that kept Francis’ company busy and protected. In return he supplied the officers with walking-around money, electronic gadgets, airplane tickets, hotel rooms and, above all, prostitutes.

One way the conspirators helped Francis, according to the indictment, was by leaking to him planned Seventh Fleet ship movements. The Harem gave up actual classified ship schedules and narrative summaries of them, the indictment said.

The Navy officers named in the latest indictment were all subject to a Department of Defense regulation related to counterintelligence awareness and reporting.

DoDD 5240.06 requires mandatory reporting of any improper handling or disclosure of classified information, any attempt to entice co-workers into criminal situations that could lead to blackmail or extortion, and any attempt to place those personnel “under obligation through special treatment, favors, gifts, or money.”

That’s a nearly perfect description of how Leonard Glenn Francis allegedly corrupted and subverted some of the most powerful and important officers in the United States Navy.

*     *     *

As the DOJ’s Alana Robinson said, the Seventh Fleet’s highest-ranking officers allegedly “worked together as a team to trade secrets for sex, serving the interests of a greedy foreign defense contractor, and not those of their own country.”

“This is a fleecing and betrayal of the United States Navy in epic proportions,” Robinson said.

In the next post, we’ll look at how the alleged conspiracy among the Lion King’s Harem worked from the inside.


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

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  1. As tragic as these events are, we should not loose sight of the generally wonderful job that our military does, often at great personal sacrifice. It is fine to report the unfortunate events but we should not forget what our military does for us. They do make mistakes, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

    Ben Fishburne
    Cpt. US Army, JAGC

  2. Ben- the problem was addressed by President Eisenhower when he left office "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist."

    In our age of American undeclared wars we are not able to decide what is corruption and what is just taking what is thought to be owed. After all the US military left over $600 MILLION in Iraq when they pulled out. Much of this equipment is now being used on American military.

    What are we to expect when there is widespread corruption in the military industrial complex? When our Commanders In Chief lie to us about the Iraq war and how prepared the Iraq military is to take over.

    We in America hold our heads in the sand about corruption when it is all around. This condemnation has noting to do with individual members of the military however all of our systems of government are being drugged down to a halt because of corruption.

  3. One is left to wonder, was "Fat Leonard" the end repository of the classified information? Certainly an aggressive businessman, who must have contacts with other government's navies, could find a buyer for Seventh Fleet movement info. I mean, if I were him, I would.

  4. I know a retired investigator who was involved in this case early on and he called it the biggest scandal in Pentagon history. Yet it is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of just how massively corrupt and wasteful Pentagon spending is.

    This is a group of greedy, unaccountable crooks all looking to go to work for defense contractors when they retire who can't account for over $100 billion in spending every year. And now Trump wants to throw another $60 billion a year down that rat hole by cutting programs that benefit the neediest Americans citizens. It is sick and disgusting, and all for an incompetent institution that hasn't won a war in over 70 years.

  5. I recall in 2003 retired Marine General Anthony Zinni commented that while observing preparations for the invasion of Iraq he had observed behavior that ranged from simple incompetence to criminal corruption. I have always wished he had been willing to name names and describe actual instances. I served under officers whom I admired and respected, and also under at least one officer who was blatantly corrupt (the general commanding eventually decided not to court martial him). The increase in military compensation that came with the switch to an "all-volunteer" military has not brought us more honest officers.

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