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US Navy Veterans Charged With Corruption in 'Fat Leonard' Scandal

  • VOA News

The USS Blue Ridge is seen in Manila, March 6, 2016. Several of those indicted in the "Fat Leonard" bribery scandal served aboard the Blue Ridge.

The U.S. Justice Department unsealed indictments Tuesday against eight more current and former Navy officials in a bribery and kickback scheme led by a crooked contractor known as "Fat Leonard."

The case, which cost the U.S. government roughly $35 million, has been under investigation for four years, and U.S. authorities say about 200 suspects were involved.

"This is a fleecing and betrayal of the United States Navy of epic proportions ... carried out by the Navy's highest-ranking officers," Acting U.S. Attorney Alana Robinson said Tuesday.

The Justice Department said Rear Admiral Bruce Loveless, a senior Navy intelligence officer based at the Pentagon, was among the suspects, along with three retired Navy captains, an active-duty captain, an active-duty commander and a retired chief warrant officer. They are charged with bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery, obstruction of justice and making false statements to federal investigators.

The suspects are accused of taking bribes from a Singapore-based defense contractor, Leonard Francis, who has already pleaded guilty to defrauding the Navy of tens of millions of dollars. Francis, known as "Fat Leonard," was CEO of defense contractor Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA).

Those indicted are accused of accepting watches, cigars, alcohol, free hotel rooms, and the services of prostitutes, courtesy of Francis, who allegedly threw lavish sex parties for his allies in return for lucrative contracts that GDMA held supplying Navy ships in the Pacific with food, water, fuel and other necessities.

Authorities estimate that Francis and his firm overcharged the Navy by about $35 million.

All are charged with offenses allegedly committed while they were assigned to the Navy's Seventh Fleet, based in Japan.

Overall, 25 named individuals have been charged in connection with the corruption scandal - 20 current or former Navy officials and five employees of "Fat Leonard." Some cases are still pending, but most of the defendants have pleaded guilty and sentenced to prison terms and fines ranging up to $100,000, and ordered to pay restitution to the Navy.

Francis, a Malaysian national, is awaiting sentencing.

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