Criminal Justice

Defense contractor pleads guilty in huge bribery scandal

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A Malaysian defense contractor has pleaded guilty to charges that he bribed “scores” of U.S. Navy officials with millions of dollars in cash and gifts over a 10-year period.

Leonard Glenn Francis, nicknamed “Fat Leonard,” pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court in San Diego to multiple charges of bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery and conspiracy to defraud the United States, the New York Times, the Washington Post and others report. As part of his plea, Francis has agreed to forfeit $35 million in ill-gotten proceeds.

Francis’ plea followed that of Capt. Daniel Dusek, the former commander of an amphibious assault ship, who admitted accepting trips, gifts and prostitutes’ services from Francis in connection with the businessman’s scheme to overbill the Navy for ship supplies and dockside services.

Five current and former Navy officials have now pleaded guilty in the scandal, which the Post describes as the biggest corruption case in Navy history.

Court files released Thursday show that Francis gave Navy officials more than $500,000 in cash, along with prostitutes’ services and travel expenses worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. He also gave them Cuban cigars, Spanish suckling pigs, ornamental swords, designer handbags and an array of other luxury goods.

Laura Duffy, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California, who is leading the investigation, called it “astounding” that Francis was able to buy the integrity of so many Navy officials with “meaningless material possessions and the satisfaction of selfish indulgences. In sacrificing their honor, these officers helped Francis defraud their county out of tens of millions of dollars,” she said.

Prosecutors said that Francis has provided evidence against at least two more Navy officials who have yet to be charged.

With Francis as a cooperating witness, prosecutors may now be able to go after other Navy officials of even higher rank that those implicated so far, said Charles Tiefer, a law professor at the University of Baltimore and a former member of the federal Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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