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Inside the Seventh Fleet: Recruiting new conspirators

Sometimes the Fat Leonard conspiracy needed new people. Only an officer with plenty of pull within the Seventh Fleet would be considered.

He had to be corruptible. He had to be willing to help Fat Leonard when asked. And of course he had to keep things secret.

In August 2007, according to the latest indictment, an officer inside the conspiracy emailed Fat Leonard, aka Leonard Glenn Francis, the owner and boss of Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA).

The subject was whether another Navy officer was corruptible: “[He] is certainly someone you can reach out to and have a dialogue with, but [we’re not] sure if he is someone who could keep his mouth shut . . . still working on it.”

Francis and his core group called the effort to recruit new conspirators a ‘shaping operation.’

For example, when Francis needed more covert influence in the Seventh Fleet’s logistics centers, he organized a shaping operation against an officer connected to the Naval Supply Systems Command.

In March 2007, a GDMA executive delivered a slab of tuna to one of the existing conspirators. That officers’ wife in turn gave the tuna to the target officer’s wife. The conspirator’s wife also arranged to spend social time with the target’s wife.

Francis asked in an email how the recruitment was progressing. “Guess all of [my wife’s] shaping is working,” was the reply. The DOJ didn’t reveal the target’s name or say if he joined the conspiracy.

*     *     *

In May 2008, a conspirator emailed Francis with an “assessment of whether the new Seventh Fleet [Commanding Officer] was corruptible and hence a potential recruit to the conspiracy,” according to the indictment.

“We still need to be cautious with his participation in events,” another conspirator wrote.

On the other hand, “[The USS Blue Ridge Chief of Staff] was completely comfortable with you the other night at Nadamans [a restaurant at the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore] and felt safe,” a conspirator emailed to Francis.

During a port visit to Jakarta, Indonesia that same month by the USS Blue Ridge (the flag ship of the Seventh Fleet), Francis paid for hotel accommodations at the Shangri-La Hotel and the services of prostitutes for at least three Navy officers, the DOJ said.

It was part of a shaping operation. But Francis emailed to complain that one officer “was very cautious around me last night.”

Another conspirator responded: “[That officer] is definitely poisoned . … Now you can see why I haven’t attempted to bring him in.”

The same conspirator then emailed Francis from a secret account, sending him “classified ship exercise schedules for various U.S. Navy ships,” according to the indictment.

*     *     *

In late May 2008, the USS Blue Ridge was in the Philippines. Six Navy officers stayed at the Makati Shangri-La in Manila at Francis’ expense.

Francis booked the Presidential Suite for “a raging multi-day party, with a rotating carousel of prostitute in attendance, during which the conspirators drank all of the Dom Perignon available at the Shangri-La,” the DOJ said.

Francis paid room and alcohol charges of more than $50,000.

One of the officers who was there later emailed Francis: “I finally detoxed myself from Manila. That was a crazy couple of days. It’s been a while since I’ve done 36 hours of straight drinking!!!”

*     *     *

In June 2008, some of the conspirators criticized another Navy officer who wasn’t part of the conspiracy.

The outsider had awarded a ship husbanding contract for the USS Blue Ridge in Vladivostok, Russia to a GDMA competitor. One of the conspirators threatened the outsider from the Navy Fleet and Industrial Supply Center, saying he’d be held “responsible/accountable for shortfalls in support.”

In the following days, two conspirators “exerted pressure on other officials within the U.S. Navy with the influence . . . to award the Vladivostok ship husbanding contract to GDMA,” the DOJ said.

“On or about June 21, 2008, GDMA was notified of ‘one-time’ contract to support the USS Blue Ridge port visit to Vladivostok from July 2-5, 2008. Upon being informed of the contract award, Francis forwarded the award email” to three of the conspirators.

A month later, according to the indictment, Francis emailed two of the conspirators a naked picture of one of the prostitutes from the Manila bash, with the notation: “I thought this photo will bring memories of . . . Manila.”

Soon after, a conspirator on the receiving end of the emailed photo sent Francis updated classified ship schedules and transit plans for various U.S. Navy ships, the DOJ said.

An early conspirator once talked in an open staff memo about problems a Navy ship had with GDMA’s services in Noumea, New Caledonia. Francis in turn emailed another, more senior conspirator to cover for GDMA: “We should be putting out fires not copying al con [all concerned] to make us look bad. ”

The more senior conspirator responded: “I’ll take [the other officer] to the wood shed for that.”

*     *     *

So far, the DOJ has charged 20 current or former U.S. Navy officials with taking bribes from Fat Leonard and GDMA.

Thirteen defendants including Francis have already pleaded guilty. A half dozen have been sentenced to prison. Sentences range from 30 months to more than six years.

An indictment isn’t evidence of guilt and the accused are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law. Eight of the officers indicted earlier this month have pleaded not guilty.

*     *     *

In the next post, we’ll look closer at the bribes Francis allegedly used to corrupt at least 20 top-level officers from the Navy’s Seventh Fleet.


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

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1 Comment

  1. Appreciate your updates on this disheartening treason conspiracy.

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