A Malaysian military contractor at the center of a corruption scandal rocking the U.S. Navy has pleaded guilty to bribery and fraud charges, admitting he presided over a decade-long conspiracy involving scores of U.S. Navy officials, tens of millions of dollars in fraud, and millions of dollars in bribes and gifts, including cash, prostitutes, Cuban cigars and Kobe beef.
Leonard Francis entered his guilty plea Thursday in federal court in San Diego, California.
Known in military circles as "Fat Leonard" because of his large size, Francis and his firm, Glenn Defense Marine Asia, obtained classified information from Navy officials in exchange for the bribes, allowing his company to overbill the U.S. military for tens of millions of dollars.
Prosecutors say the classified data included information on ship movements and schedules, and later on the Navy investigation into his billing practices.
The 50-year-old Leonard will be sentenced in April and has agreed to forfeit $35 million he made in the scheme.
Earlier Thursday in the same courthouse, Captain Daniel Dusek became the highest-ranking Navy officer to enter a guilty plea in the case. He is one of five current and former Navy officials to plead guilty so far. Prosecutors say more officers will likely face charges.
Dusek admitted to using his position as a senior officer to ensure ships stopped at ports where Francis' company operated. Officials say Dusek arranged, on one occasion, for an aircraft carrier and its strike group to stop at Port Klang, Malaysia, a terminal owned by Francis.