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.
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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.