Key figure in massive Navy scandal to change plea

AP News
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Posted: Jan 14, 2015 9:49 PM

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A Malaysian defense contractor at the center of a probe into a multi-million dollar Navy bribery scandal has scheduled a change-of-plea hearing.

Leonard Glenn Francis, chief executive of a Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd., or GDMA, is expected in federal court Thursday in San Diego. His lawyer could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Prosecutors declined to comment.

Francis has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy in a bribery case that has led to the arrest of Navy commanders and rocked the military branch.

Prosecutors say Francis bought information from Navy officials that allowed his company to overbill the military branch by at least $20 million for services it provided to Navy ships at Asian ports since 2009. Francis paid for plane tickets, hotels and prostitutes for Navy officials who helped him, according to prosecutors. GDMA has provided fuel, food and supplies for Navy ships for 25 years. He was arrested in 2013 on a trip to San Diego.

The hearing comes barely a week after a Navy commander acknowledged sharing confidential information with Francis, who is known in military circles as "Fat Leonard."

Jose Luis Sanchez said he provided shipping schedules and other information to Francis in exchange for bribes. He became the highest-ranking Navy official 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.

Sanchez faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison when he is sentenced March 27 for bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery.

Sanchez admitted taking bribes valued between $30,000 and $120,000 from 2009 to 2013, a prostitute, $7,500 to travel from Asia to the U.S. and five days at Singapore's luxury Shangri-La Hotel, according to a 24-page plea agreement. In exchange, he provided classified Navy ship and submarine schedules and other internal information to Francis.

Cmdr. Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz, has pleaded not guilty to accepting bribes in exchange for providing confidential information to Francis. He was indicted last week on an additional seven counts of bribery.

An agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, John Beliveau II, and a manager for the contractor, Alex Wisidagama, who is Francis' cousin, have pleaded guilty.