SAN DIEGO (AP) — As a U.S. Navy commander, Jose Luis Sanchez helped oversee operations in an area spanning Japan, Russia, Singapore, Australia and many other countries across Asia. Now, he is the highest-ranking official to plead guilty in a massive bribery scheme that has rocked the Navy.
The bribes that destroyed Sanchez's career and leave him facing a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison are valued at no more than $120,000, according to a plea agreement. That includes payment to prostitutes, $7,500 to travel from Asia to the United States, five days at Singapore's luxury Shangri-La Hotel and cash.
Sanchez, 42, on Tuesday became the second Navy official and fifth person overall to plead guilty in an alleged scheme to provide classified Navy ship and submarine schedules and other internal information to Leonard Glenn Francis, chief executive of a Singapore-based company that provided services to vessels at ports.
Sanchez acknowledged sharing confidential information with Francis, who is known in military circles as "Fat Leonard," from 2009 to 2013. Sanchez said he provided shipping schedules, a competitor's bills and internal emails that Francis' company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd., was being investigated for possible fraud.
Sanchez, who has remained on active duty in San Diego, was asked in court to silently read four passages of the 24-page plea agreement and say if the wrongdoing described was accurate.
"Yes, sir," he told U.S. Magistrate Judge David Bartick each time. A five-page addendum to the plea agreement was filed under seal.
Francis and his company serviced Navy ships for 25 years. Prosecutors say he bought information that allowed his company to overbill the Navy for port services in Asia by at least $20 million since 2009. He was arrested in September 2013 and has pleaded not guilty.
Sanchez, one of four Navy members charged in the case, held key positions in Asia before he was reassigned to Tampa, Florida, in 2013. During the period that he said he took bribes, his positions included director of operations and executive officer for the commanding officer of the Navy's Fleet Logistics Command in Yokosuka, Japan.
He is the second Navy officer to plead guilty in the case after Daniel Layug, a petty officer who admitted providing classified shipping schedules and other internal Navy information to Francis.
Cmdr. Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz, 47, was indicted Tuesday on an additional seven counts of bribery. Misiewicz, also of San Diego, has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery.
The judge agreed to let Sanchez remove a GPS monitor while free on bond and allowed him to back the bond with assets of his mother and sister, instead of his own property. He can't leave Southern California except to visit his attorney.
Sanchez's attorney, Vincent Ward, said his client needed his own money to pay legal fees and assured the judge that Sanchez wouldn't betray his family by failing to appear for sentencing on March 27. His mother and sister sat in the front row of a tiny courtroom.
"He's closer to his mom and sister than anyone," Ward said.
Sanchez and his attorney declined to speak with reporters as they left the courtroom.
Robert Huie, an assistant U.S. attorney, wouldn't say if Sanchez was cooperating with authorities, but officials said the investigation was ongoing.
"We continue to unearth the full scope of this pernicious fraud and bribery scheme, and we will pursue the evidence, wherever it leads us," said Laura Duffy, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California.