March 17, 2021 admin 0 Comments

The Fat Leonard scandal is a corruption scandal and ongoing investigation within the United States Navy involving ship support contractor Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), a subsidiary of the Glenn Marine Group.[1][2] The Washington Post called the scandal “perhaps the worst national-security breach of its kind to hit the Navy since the end of the Cold War.”[2] At the heart of the scandal was Glenn Defense Marine Asia, a firm run by Leonard Glenn Francis, a Malaysian national known as “Fat Leonard” for his then over 350 pound weight.[2] Francis provided at least a half million dollars in cash, plus travel expenses, luxury items, and prostitutes to a large number of U.S. uniformed officers of the United States Seventh Fleet, who in turn gave him classified material about the movements of U.S. ships and submarines, confidential contracting information, and information about active law enforcement investigations into Glenn Defense Marine Asia.[2][3] Francis then “exploited the intelligence for illicit profit, brazenly ordering his moles to redirect aircraft carriers to ports he controlled in Southeast Asia so he could more easily bilk the Navy for fuel, tugboats, barges, food, water and sewage removal.”[2] The Navy, through GDMA, even employed divers to search harbors for explosives.[3] He also directed them to author “Bravo Zulu” memos, which is an informal term for a letter of commendation from the Navy given to civilians who have performed outstanding services for the Navy, in order to bolster GDMA’s credibility for jobs “well done”.[4]

The first activities of the conspiracy were confirmed to have existed in 2006 when Francis recruited numerous Navy personnel to engage in corruption, including directing contracts toward his firm, disfavoring competitors, and inhibiting legitimate fiscal and operational oversight. The initial co-conspirators labelled themselves “the cool kids” and “the wolf pack.”[5]

U.S. federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against 33 people in connection with the Fat Leonard scandal. Of those, 22 pleaded guilty: Francis himself,[6] four of his top aides, and 17 Navy officials (specifically, at least ten commissioned officers, two petty officers, one former NCIS special agent, and two civilian Navy contracting officials).[7] Nine others are awaiting trial in U.S. district court in San Diego. Separately, five Navy officers were charged with crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and have been subject to court-martial proceedings. An additional civilian pleaded guilty to a scandal-related crime in Singapore court.[8][9]

Suffering health problems, Francis was hospitalized and released in March 2018. Rather than returning to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service, he was granted a medical furlough and allowed to stay in San Diego at a private residence owned by one of his physicians, under 24-hour surveillance for which his family paid.[10][11] At a deposition taken in 2018 in the David A. Morales case, Francis said he is being treated for kidney cancer.[11]

In 1989, when he was 21, Francis had been sentenced to three years in jail in Malaysia for firearms possession.[12]


  • 1 Initiation and conduct of investigation
    • 1.1 Discounting whistleblower warnings
    • 1.2 Tepid responses
    • 1.3 Eventual actions
  • 2 Scope of inquiry and prosecutions
  • 3 Corruption prevention
  • 4 Similar corruption
  • 5 Individuals involved
  • 6 References
  • 7 External links

Initiation and conduct of investigation

Discounting whistleblower warnings

In 2006, Dave Schauss, a NCIS investigator, became suspicious of GDMA contracts, but Francis was alerted by an informant, Paul Simpkins, to the scrutiny. Simpkins, a decorated veteran of the U.S. Air Force employed as a civilian contracting officer by the Navy in Singapore, managed to quash any inquiry and had Schauss’ position eliminated.[3] “What else could I have done to expose this racket?,” Schauss asked. Exposed as a whistleblower, he said officers, “made my life hell” after discovering he had attempted to initiate an investigation of GDMA.[13] In 2007, the Navy’s Inspector General forwarded a document claiming GDMA was grossly overcharging the Navy for providing port security but NCIS may have failed to follow up the warning. According to a senior Navy officer, “Everybody knew that [Glenn Defense] had been under investigation.” “Everybody also knew that nothing ever happened with those investigations.” After that, the Manila NCIS office got an anonymous letter and documents, alleging GDMA had overcharged for fees, armed guards and other services during a Subic Bay, Philippines port visit by the Fred Stockham container support ship. “I hope you share the same concern when reading these documents and take swift action to stamp out this fraud, waste and abuse,” the letter said. Manila’s NCIS agents forwarded the paperwork to the Navy’s Singapore contracting office, but it had been infiltrated by GDMA’s moles, and they claimed the allegations were false, closing the case. Mike Lang, a contracting officer who worked there from 2006 to 2008, said, “They’d always side with Glenn Defense and paint us as troublemakers. They’d say, ‘Why are you harassing our contractors? You’re making my job hard’.” Two officials from that office, Simpkins and his subordinate, Sharon Gursharan Kaur who was also a civilian Navy contracting officer, as well as a former GDMA employee, were sentenced to six years and 33 months, respectively, the latter doing her time in Singapore.[13] NCIS reportedly opened and closed as many as 27 investigations without taking action against GDMA. NCIS has yet to provide an explanation for this lack of action in a significant fraud investigation.

Tepid responses

Documents obtained by the Washington Post via Freedom of Information Act Requests (FOIAs) revealed that after al-Qaeda committed the October 2000 suicide attack on the USS Cole and the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Navy’s Economic Crimes unit was reduced from a staff of 140 to only nine persons, most having been reassigned to focus on terrorism.[3][13] At least 27 separate investigations had been opened, but later closed without action, thanks to the intervention of senior Navy personnel who were in league with Francis.[13] The lack of enthusiasm for oversight might have been motivated in part by GDMA’s demonstrable ability to deliver the sometimes complex level of services the Navy sought. In 2016, Commander Mike Misiewicz, an officer who was later convicted, told Defense News, “He was a crook, but he was our crook.”[14] John Hogan, the NCIS executive assistant director for criminal operations, admitted, “In hindsight, maybe we could have dug a little deeper than we did.”[13] Ray Mabus, who was appointed Navy Secretary by President Barack Obama in 2009, admitted his branch was vulnerable to contracting fraud and should have performed better oversight: “I’m not going to defend at all opening and closing 27 cases. Something should have raised a red flag along there somewhere…There were people inside the Navy who were trying to shut this down, who were coming up with reasons not to pursue it.”[13] In 2010, a civilian Navy attorney drafted restrictive ethics guidelines for the 7th Fleet. Two admirals friendly to Francis were said to be responsible for seeing that it was delayed and diluted over the next 2 1/2 years, before being implemented.[13]

Eventual actions

In 2010, Navy officials became suspicious that some of the bills submitted by GDMA from Thailand were padded.[15] The escalating costs prompted the Navy to build a logistics team to keep contracts somewhat in check, but it was frustrated because Francis had a spy, Jose Luis Sanchez, feeding its information back to him.[13] (Sanchez has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and awaits sentencing.) Despite the increasing awareness that the Navy was being subjected to massive fraud, GDMA was able to contract to deliver $200 million in services in 2011 alone.[13] After a three-year investigation and having planted false information that their inquiries had been closed, putting Francis off his guard, federal agents lured him to the United States. In September 2013, he was arrested at a San Diego hotel in a sting operation.[3] He pleaded guilty in January 2015 and is awaiting sentencing.[2][16] Leonard admitted to using his U.S. Navy contacts, including ship captains, to obtain classified information and to defraud the Navy of tens of millions of dollars by steering ships to specific ports in the Pacific and falsifying service charges.[16] In his plea, Francis identified seven Navy officials who accepted bribes.[17] He faces a maximum prison sentence of 25 years and agreed to forfeit $35 million in personal assets, an amount he admits to overcharging the Navy.[18][19]

Scope of inquiry and prosecutions

Since 2013, 31 people have been criminally charged in connection with the Fat Leonard bribery and corruption scandal. According to investigators, by November 2017, more than 440 people — including 60 admirals — have come under scrutiny under the inquiry.[20][8] The Navy held a military trial for a still-serving commander, David A. Morales, the first not left to civilian prosecution. He was charged with bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery, false official statements, failure to obey lawful orders, and conduct unbecoming an officer. He was acquitted of the first three charges in a bench trial, only found guilty of failure to obey lawful orders and conduct unbecoming.[21] As of September 2018, 30 people have pleaded guilty; 12 others have been charged (including eight Navy officers who were indicted in March 2017); four admirals were disciplined by the military; two others, four-star admiral Robert Willard and three-star Joe Donnelly, were known to be under investigation;[3] and more than 150 other unidentified people have been scrutinized.[8][22][23][24]

A March 2017 indictment made reference to “AG”, a former officer in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), who had been employed for several years as a liaison officer aboard USS Blue Ridge. On May 3, 2018, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation identified “AG” as Lieutenant Commander Alex Gillett, reporting that he had resigned from the Navy after being questioned by the Australian Federal Police.[25] A second unidentified Australian of similar rank was also reported to be under investigation.[12][26] A memo of understanding between the U.S. Navy and the RAN allows for the possible extradition of Australian personnel to the United States for the purposes of prosecution.[25]

Among the nineteen people who have pleaded guilty to federal crimes, one was Francis himself, two others were his top deputies; and sixteen others were Navy personnel.[22][13] The highest-ranking was Rear Admiral Robert Gilbeau, who was convicted in June 2016 after pleading guilty to making false statements to investigators about his contacts with Francis,[27] becoming the first Navy admiral in modern American history to be convicted of a felony while on active duty.[20] On May 17, 2017, U.S. District Judge Janis Lynn Sammartino sentenced Gilbeau to 18 months in prison, although he was allowed to continue collecting his nearly $10,000 monthly pension.[28]
He was being held in FCI Englewood, a low security federal prison in Littleton, Colorado, and was released on November 1, 2018.[29][30]

National University of Singapore, corporate governance expert Mak Yuen Teen, noted that procurement in the defense industry is particularly vulnerable to bribery and corruption. “It is usually not that transparent,” with infrequent bidding for large contracts. Blowing the whistle on superior officers might also be discouraged, he indicated. “Those at the top probably thought they could get away with it as their underlings were unlikely to squeal on them.”

According to its spokesman Captain Amy Derrick, the U.S. Navy canceled all contracts with GDMA as the result of a 2013 audit.[12]

In the case of former Naval Intelligence chief, Vice Admiral Ted N. Branch, both the Navy and the Department of Justice declined to prosecute after a three-year investigation.[31]

Corruption prevention

The scope of the GDMA investigation inadvertently hindered the Navy’s ability to fill senior leadership roles, unintentionally delayed hundreds of officers’ careers and depleted the Navy’s admiralty. Hundreds of those who had not been compromised needed investigation and clearance. That stalled promotions for years according to Ray Mabus, the then-Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV). “If Leonard Francis mentioned somebody’s name, or it seemed to us that if somebody had served in a senior position in the Pacific during this time, which covered a lot of folks, they were caught up in this until their name could be pulled out.” “It took in a huge percentage of flag officers, and it really hamstrung the Navy in terms of promotions, in terms of positions,” with his opinion widely shared. The Department of Justice, however, had forwarded to the USN almost 450 names that they declined to prosecute. The Navy elected to take only a handful to courts-martial, issuing at least twelve letters of censure from Mabus and his successor, Richard V. Spencer, with some forty other administrative actions. In early 2018, there were roughly 170 names still pending before the Consolidated Disposition Authority (CDA). “It’s really been pretty devastating to the upper ranks of the Navy,” said Mabus. “There were bad people here. You gotta catch them. You got to make sure they’re punished. But there were a lot of people that didn’t do anything that got caught up in this.”[14]

A retired Admiral said. “At least with Tailhook, people knew that if they went to Tailhook they were being looked at. Right now, as far as anyone knows, if you ever went west of Hawaii, you’re being looked at.” Another senior U.S. Pacific Command staffer informed a room of Australians, regarding the ongoing case, “China could never have dreamt up a way to do this much damage to the U.S. Navy’s Pacific leadership.”[14]

GDMA’s influence paralleled the Pacific Fleet’s intentions to locate vessels into ports unfamiliar with its standards for services, that had been complicated by the al Qaida attack on the USS Cole in Yemen that killed 17 sailors. GDMA was able to provide services to meet more difficult standards than competitors could, 7th Fleet officers claimed. Francis had made himself indispensable.[14]

In February 2018, Admiral Bill Moran, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, announced the implementation of increased oversight and other measures and policies to deter a repeat of the widespread corruption in the “Fat Leonard” case. Glenn Fine, the principal deputy in the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Defense, said the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the criminal investigative arm of the DOD’s OIG, said GDMA, Francis’ contract firm, created a scheme to defraud the Navy of tens of millions of dollars via overbilling for supplying goods and services. The Navy created a Consolidated Disposition Authority (CDA) which was tasked with determining whether hundreds of Navy officers should be charged under the UCMJ, or alternatively, to be subjected to administrative actions. Fine said the CDA has already adjudicated 300-plus cases.
[32] The Navy, which had been posting the names of personnel who had been fired in the case on its website, announced in May 2018, that it will discontinue the practice. California Representative Jackie Speier, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, objected to the change in policy, characterizing it as a reduction in transparency and a barrier to the public’s “right to know.”[33]

The private sector used feedback surveys to assess personnel performance, a method the Army adopted in 2001. The Army’s initiative helped identify serious ethics problems amongst leaders. Besides “command climate” surveys, “360” evaluations identified causes for discipline or oversight among its upper ranks. The Navy has not extended such feedback to gather information from lower-ranking personnel, however.[34]

Between Fat Leonard’s arrest and the end of 2016, the Navy suspended 566 vendors, permanently debarring 548 more from contracts, according to the government’s Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee. Those included Glenn Defense Marine Asia and 55 of its Pacific Rim affiliates. Public corruption watchdogs say that the internal revisions to the way the Navy deals with contractors are important, but the more difficult problem to remedy is a culture of corruption that poisoned the highest ranks of the U.S. Navy. “Very few service members get promoted because they blew the whistle on their boss,” “If you don’t get promoted, you get forced out of the service. If that happens before you are eligible for a retirement, you lose out on the lifetime pension. For most people, it is much safer to simply put your head down and keep going until 20 years,” according to Dan Grazier, a Straus Military Reform Project fellow at Washington, D.C.’s Project on Government Oversight (POGO).[34]

Two of those who were involved in the investigation and prosecution became finalists for the 2019 Service to America medals. They were Mark Pletcher, an assistant U.S. attorney for the southern district of California who worked on the case for six years and Jim McWhirter of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) at the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS).[35]

Similar corruption

Similar details of a ship husbandry corruption case similar to “Fat Leonard” but centered in Korea were aired in July 2019. The Department of Justice has charged Sung-Yol “David” Kim, head of DK Marine Service, with counts of conspiracy and bribery, according to pleadings filed with the Eastern District of Michigan. The case also alleged cover-ups and coordination to obscure the overcharges.[36]

Individuals involved

Except for Gursharan Kaur Sharon Rachael’s case, which was tried in Singapore,[37] and those of five persons charged in military courts (Captain John F. Steinberger, Commander David A. Morales, Commander Jason W. Starmer, Lt. Peter Vapor, and Chief Warrant Officer Brian T. Ware), all court proceedings as of March 15, 2021, have been in U.S. federal court.[8]


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  • ^ First military case in Fat Leonard bribery scandal begins, Navy Times, Ben Finley (AP), June 26, 2017. Retrieved June 29, 2017.
  • ^ a b c Navy commander latest to be charged in ‘Fat Leonard’ scandal, Navy Times, Mark D. Faram, September 1, 2017. Retrieved September 4, 2017.
  • ^ Former Navy fighter pilot to be tried by military in “Fat Leonard” bribery scandal, The Virginian-Pilot, Courtney Mabeus, September 13, 2017. September 16, 2017.
  • ^ a b c Two Navy officers plead guilty in “Fat Leonard” scandal in Norfolk courtrooms, Virginian-Pilot, Courtney Mabeus, March 7, 2018. Retrieved March 14, 2018.
  • ^ Craig Whitlock, Another Navy officer pleads guilty to taking bribes from ‘Fat Leonard’, The Washington Post (August 18, 2017).
  • ^ Navy Captain To Face Charges In Ongoing ‘Fat Leonard’ Scandal, The Virginian-Pilot, Courtney Mabeus, December 5, 2017. Retrieved December 10, 2017.
  • ^ First military trial in Navy’s ‘Fat Leonard’ scandal results in guilty plea in Norfolk, The Virginian-Pilot, Brock Vergakis, January 12, 2018. Retrieved January 12, 2018.
  • ^ Trial set for navy supply officer accused of patronizing prostitutes, Navy Times, Mark D. Faram, January 31, 2018. Retrieved February 13, 2018.
  • ^ a b 2 Former Executives Plead Guilty in Multi-Million Dollar Navy Bribery Scheme with ‘Fat Leonard’, NBC San Diego, Jaspreet Kaur, May 10, 2017. Retrieved June 24, 2017.
  • ^ a b c d Two more Navy officers censured for Fat Leonard-related infractions, Navy Times, Geoff Ziezulewicz, May 16, 2019. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  • ^ a b c d Navy hired retired officer despite ‘Fat Leonard’ misconduct investigation, Navy Times, Geoff Ziezulewicz, June 22, 2018. Retrieved December 15, 2018.
  • ^ Navy Office of Information, Rear Adm. Adrian Jansen Receives NJP at Admiral’s Mast, NNS, Story Number: NNS170210-16 Release Date: October 2, 2017
  • ^ U.S. Navy accepted gifts from Leonard, Stars and Stripes, Andrew Dyer, August 5, 2019. Retrieved September 4, 2019.
  • ^ a b Trump nominee sunk by ‘Fat Leonard’ corruption scandal, The Washington Post, Craig Whitlock, November 20, 2018. Retrieved November 29, 2018.
  • ^ a b c d e f g h Slavin, Erik (February 10, 2015). “3 rear admirals forced out amid massive Navy bribery investigation”. Stars and Stripes.
  • ^ Tritten, Travis J. (March 10, 2015). “McCaskill wants ‘Fat Leonard’ discipline to go ‘to the very top'”. Stars and Stripes.
  • ^ Navy upbraids retired admiral caught up in ‘Fat Leonard’ scandal, U-T San Diego, Carl Prine, November 29, 2017. Retrieved December 10, 2017.
  • ^ Whitlock, Craig (April 1, 2018). “How ‘Fat Leonard’ affected Pentagon’s pick to lead Joint Chiefs”. The Washington Post. Retrieved April 2, 2018.
  • ^ a b c d e New indictments, same perks of hotels, booze, and sex in ‘Fat Leonard’ Navy bribery scandal, Union Tribune, John Wilkins, August 17, 2018. Retrieved August 19, 2018.
  • ^ a b Retired CPO Gets Prison in Continuing Federal Probe into ‘Fat Leonard’ Navy Corruption Scandal, USNI, Gidget Fuentes, November 3, 2020. Retrieved November 27, 2020.
  • ^ a b c ‘Fat Leonard’ scandal grows with indictment of three more retired Navy officials, The Washington Post, Craig Whitlock, August 17, 2018. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  • ^ a b Two retired Navy officials plead guilty in ‘Fat Leonard’ bribery prosecution, The San Diego Union-Tribune, Kristina Davis, June 9, 2020. Retrieved June 11, 2020.
  • ^ Former Navy official pleads guilty in ‘Fat Leonard’ probe just weeks after indictment, Union Tribune, Kristina Davis, September 5, 2018. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  • ^ Former Master Chief Petty Officer Sentenced in Sweeping U.S. Navy Corruption and Fraud Probe, United States Attorney for the Southern District of California, Department of Justice, November 13, 2018.
  • ^ Ricarte David Register Number: 78499-298, Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved February 26, 2020.
  • ^ Former Navy captain pleads guilty to ghostwriting ‘Fat Leonard’ emails, CNN, Euan McKirdy, November 14, 2018. Retrieved November 23, 2018.
  • ^ Retired Navy Captain once assigned to Norfolk sentenced in ‘Fat Leonard’ corruption case, WTKR, Julia Varnier, February 12, 2019. Retrieved April 5, 2019.
  • ^ Jeffrey Breslau Register Number: 79498-298, Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved February 11, 2018.
  • External links

    • Q&A interview with Defense News naval warfare correspondent Chris Cavas on the topic of the Fat Leonard Scandal, May 7, 2017, C-SPAN

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