US Navy lieutenant commander pleads guilty in ‘Fat Leonard’ bribery case

A U.S. Navy lieutenant commander on Thursday pleaded guilty in federal court where he admitted to accepting bribes from a Malaysian subcontractor in exchange for sensitive information about U.S. Navy operations.

An expanding investigation into a bribery scheme orchestrated by a businessman nicknamed “Fat Leonard” has so far resulted in 11 Navy officials getting charged for accepting cash, prostitutes and even Lady Gaga concert tickets as bribe.

The fraud scheme allowed Glenn Defense Marina Asia (GDMA), a ship husbanding company that operated in Southeast Asia, to overbill the Navy by an estimated $35 million for its services.

On October 13, logistic and supply officer Gentry Debord, who is based in Singapore, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernard G. Skomal of the Southern District of California. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 13, 2017.

In pleading guilty, Debord admitted that he instructed Glenn Defense Marina Asia (GDMA) executives to inflate their invoices to the Navy to cover the cost of various illicit gifts provided to him.

From November 2007 to January 2013, Debord provided former GDMA CEO Leonard Glenn Francis and others with internal and proprietary U.S. Navy information. This information included inside Navy information about competitors’ bids and information about an investigation into GDMA’s billing practices.

Debord also admitted to misusing his position and influence in the Navy to advocate for and advance GDMA’s interests, including by approving inflated invoices for services never rendered that he directed Francis to submit.

According to admissions made in connection with his plea, as part of this conspiracy, Debord, Francis and others attempted to conceal the bribes given to Debord as well as the nature and extent of his relationship with Francis.

This was done by, for example, using coded language in communications referring to prostitutes as “cheesecake” or “bodyguards.” Debord also requested that GDMA executives provide him with an apartment for a port visit.

In addition, Debord admitted to asking a GDMA executive to provide him with three hotel rooms, two cell phones, a van and 2,000 Singapore dollars. Debord instructed the executive to recover the value of these items by inflating the amount that GDMA would invoice the U.S. Navy for potable water and trash removal service for the USS Essex port visit to Singapore, which GDMA proceeded to do.

So far, a total of 16 individuals have been charged in connection with the GDMA corruption and fraud investigation. Of those, 11 are current or former U.S. Navy officials.