A Navy commander accused of trading military secrets for cash bribes, plane tickets, flings with prostitutes and Lady Gaga concert tickets pleaded guilty Thursday to corruption charges in federal court in San Diego.
Cmdr. Michael Misiewicz, 48, a graduate of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, became the eighth person to plead guilty in a gigantic corruption case that has rocked the Navy and reached high into the officer corps. More than 100 people remain under investigation for possible criminal, ethical or administrative violations.
Misiewicz had contested the charges against him after he was arrested in September 2013 but he agreed to change his plea and appear before a judge late Thursday.
“From the beginning of this case Commander Misiewicz has accepted personal responsibility,” his attorneys, Wendy Gerboth and Mark Adams of San Diego, said in a statement. “He is extremely sorry for the harm he has caused to his family, the United States Navy and this great country.”
Prosecutors and federal investigators accused Misiewicz of playing a key role in a long-running bribery scheme that enabled a Singapore-based defense contractor, Glenn Defense Marine Asia, to fleece the Navy of more than $20 million. The company held contracts for more than 25 years to resupply Navy vessels during port visits in Asia and has admitted to massively overcharging the government for its services.
Misiewicz was born Vannak Khem in Cambodia, but he was adopted as a 6-year-old by a U.S. Embassy worker. He moved to Illinois just before Cambodia plunged into a bloody communist revolution. In December 2010, as the commander of a Navy destroyer, he returned to Cambodia for the first time in 37 years when the ship made a port visit in Sihanoukville.
During 2011 and 2012, Misiewicz held a crucial post as deputy director of operations for the Navy’s 7th Fleet, based in Japan. In that role, he could influence the Navy’s decisions about which ports its ships would visit, and for how long—making him extremely valuable to Glenn Defense Marine Asia.
According to an indictment in the case, Misiewicz leaked classified information about planned Navy ship movements to Glenn Defense Marine Asia on six different occasions while he served on the 7th Fleet’s flagship, the USS Blue Ridge.
In addition, according to an affidavit filed by a federal agent, Misiewicz sometimes worked to redirect ships to ports controlled by Glenn Defense Marine. In September 2011, for instance, the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis extended its stay at a Malaysian port run by Glenn Defense Marine, enabling the firm to bill the Navy an extra $250,000.
“See, you ask—I deliver! LoL!” Misiewicz wrote in an email to the company’s boss, Leonard Glenn Francis, just prior to the Stennis’s port visit.
A few months later, Misiewicz successfully helped to change the itinerary of another aircraft carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln, so that it would visit a Thai port controlled by Glenn Defense Marine Asia in January 2012 instead of the Philippines, according to the affidavit.
The same thing happened with yet another aircraft carrier, the USS George Washington, in October 2012 when it skipped a visit to Singapore and instead stopped at a Malaysian port run by Glenn Defense Marine, netting the firm $1.8 million, according to the affidavit.
In exchange, Glenn Defense Marine Asia executives catered to Misiewicz’s weakness for sex, travel and luxury goods, the indictment states.
The firm paid for Misiewicz to spend time with prostitutes on multiple occasions, including at a luxury hotel in Manila in February 2011, an evening in Japan in April 2012, and two nights at a Singapore hotel in September 2012, according to the affidavit and indictment.
On another occasion, Francis made a reservation with an escort service to provide four prostitutes to spend at least three days with Misiewicz and another unnamed Navy commander in Singapore in March 2011, according to the affidavit. That encounter, however, fell through at the last minute when the officers were assigned to help with the Navy’s emergency response to a massive tsunami that struck Japan.
A year later, Francis provided tickets so Misiewicz and four unnamed Navy officers could attend a Lady Gaga concert in Thailand, according to the affidavit.
In providing gifts to Misiewicz, the defense contractor didn’t forget about his wife and other family members.
According to prosecutors, the firm provided tickets for Misiewicz and four relatives to attend a performance of the Lion King in Japan in 2010; paid for airfare for his mother, brother, wife and three children to travel within Asia and from the United States to Cambodia; and bought a designer handbag for his wife in Japan.
His wife has since filed for divorce.