Third U.S. Navy officer arrested in Asia bribery scheme

Federal authorities arrested a third senior U.S. Navy official Wednesday in connection with a massive bribery scheme in Asia involving prostitutes and luxury travel.

SAN DIEGO — Federal authorities arrested a third senior U.S. Navy official Wednesday in connection with a massive bribery scheme in Asia involving prostitutes and luxury travel.

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Jose Luis Sanchez was arrested in Tampa, Florida. His lawyer could not be immediately reached for comment.

In a criminal complaint, Sanchez is accused of accepting prostitutes, $100,000 cash and other bribes from Leonard Glenn Francis, the CEO of Singapore-based Glenn Defence Marine Asia Ltd., or GDMA.

Prosecutors say in exchange, Sanchez passed on classified U.S. Navy information to the Malaysian contractor, whose company has serviced Navy ships in the Pacific for 25 years and is accused of overbilling the Pentagon by millions. Wednesday’s arrest marks the latest development in the case rocking the Navy. The accusations signal serious national security breaches and corruption and has set off high-level meetings at the Pentagon with the threat that more people, including those of higher ranks, could be swept up as the investigation continues. A hearing Nov. 8 could set a trial date.

“According to the allegations in this case, a number of officials were willing to sacrifice their integrity and millions of taxpayer dollars for personal gratification,” U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said after Wednesday’s arrest.

The two other senior officials arrested in recent weeks in the case are Navy Cmdr. Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz — who like Sanchez, is accused of giving Francis’ company confidential information about Navy ship routes — and a senior Navy investigator, John Beliveau II.

Prosecutors allege in a criminal complaint that Beliveau, 44, kept Francis abreast of the bribery probe and advised him on how to respond in exchange for such things as prostitution services.

Federal authorities said Wednesday they will seek to have Sanchez, 41, sent to San Diego to face the charges.

GDMA overcharged the Navy millions of dollars for fuel, food and other services it provided, and invented tariffs by using phoney port authorities, prosecutors say.

Misiewicz and Francis moved Navy vessels like chess pieces, diverting aircraft carriers, destroyers and other ships to Asian ports with lax oversight where Francis could inflate costs, the criminal complaint alleges.

Francis, 49, was arrested in San Diego in September. A few weeks later, authorities arrested his company’s general manager of global government contracts, Alex Wisidagama, 40. Misiewicz, Beliveau, Francis and Wisidagama have pleaded not guilty. Their defence attorneys declined comment.

Court records allege that Sanchez regularly emailed Francis internal Navy discussions about GDMA, including legal opinions, and made recommendations in GDMA’s favour about port visits and Navy personnel assignments.

The conspiracy began in January 2009, when Sanchez was the deputy logistics officer for the commander of the Navy’s 7th Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan, according to charging documents. Francis, who is known in Navy circles as “Fat Leonard,” hired prostitutes for Sanchez and friends on multiple occasions, according to the investigation.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman said the GDMA executives “boasted” about their unlawful dealings.

“Day by day, this massive Navy fraud and bribery investigation continues to widen, and as the charges announced today show, we will follow the evidence wherever it takes us,” he said.

The defendants could face up to five years in prison if convicted of conspiracy to commit bribery.

The federal government has suspended its contracts with Francis.

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