If this sounds like menial labor, it’s not. Carrying water for the U.S. Navy is big business, worth tens of millions per year, as court documents show.
So Fat Leonard allegedly made a number of Navy personnel an offer they couldn’t refuse: information on the comings and goings of Navy vessels in exchange for bribes in the form of free airfare, luxury hotel stays and visits with prostitutes.
Now, another Navy commander embroiled in this scheme has copped to his misdeeds in a federal court. On Tuesday, Jose Luis Sanchez, 42, became the fifth of seven defendants to plead guilty to opening up shop with a big guy willing to line their pockets in exchange for classified information.
“Commander Sanchez sold out his command and country for cash bribes, luxury hotel rooms, and the services of prostitutes,” Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell said in a press release. “After today’s guilty plea, instead of free stays at the Shangri-La hotel, Sanchez is facing many nights in federal prison. The Department of Justice’s Criminal Division is committed to prosecuting those who abuse positions of public trust for personal enrichment at the expense of national security and the American taxpayers.”
Sanchez — the highest-ranking official to plead guilty in the Fat Leonard affair — faces 20 years in prison, as the Associated Press reported, and will be sentenced in March.
As The Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock reported, though the Navy is no stranger to contracting scandals, Fat Leonard — who allegedly sought information about ongoing investigations into his bribes while bribing — went above and beyond.
“Allegations of bribery and kickbacks involving naval officers, contracting personnel and [Naval Criminal Investigative Service, or NCIS] agents are unheard of,” retired Adm. Gary Roughead, a former chief of naval operations, told Whitlock, calling the charges “extremely serious, disconcerting and surprising.”
For Sanchez, it was quite a comedown. The Navy’s director of operations in Singapore was accused in a charging document of some pretty rank behavior. Among the allegations:
- In October 2009, Sanchez and Fat Leonard discussed the needs of the “wolf pack” — Sanchez and other Navy personnel — during visits to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur — including female escorts. Sanchez to Leonard: “Yummy … daddy like.”
- Though the rendezvous was canceled, Sanchez and Fat Leonard discussed possible procurement of a 17-year-old prostitute in March 2011, including her bra size. The girl was “very young n still sturdy [sic],” Leonard wrote in an e-mail.
- In November 2011, Sanchez warned Fat Leonard the Navy was suspicious about phony invoices and overbilling: “Just wanted to give you a head’s [sic] up on another potential investigation.”
Sanchez’s total take: $100,000, according to prosecutors. The cost of the overbilling: at least $20 million.
“This outcome yet again sends the message that corruption will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted,” NCIS deputy inspector general of investigations James B. Burch said in a statement. “This is an unfortunate example of dishonorable Naval officers who recklessly risked the safety of our troops by trading classified information for cash, extravagant gifts and prostitutes.”
Sanchez pleaded guilty as his mother and sister looked on. Asked to affirm whether the described in his 24-page plea agreement was accurate, he said: “Yes, sir.”
According to the Justice Department, former NCIS Special Agent John Beliveau and Petty Officer First Class Dan Layug have also pleaded guilty in connection with the investigation. So have two former GDMA executives, Alex Wisidagama and Edmond Aruffo.
In addition, one more Fat Leonard indictment came down yesterday. The Justice Department said U.S. Navy Captain-Select Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz, 47, of San Diego, was charged with bribery and conspiracy.
“According to allegations in the indictment, from at least as early as July 2011 until September 2013, Misiewicz provided classified U.S. Navy ship schedules and other sensitive U.S. Navy information to Francis and used his position and influence within the U.S. Navy to benefit GDMA,” the department said in a statement. “In return Francis allegedly gave him things of value such as cash, travel and entertainment expenses, and the services of prostitutes.”
Lured to the United States by navy officials, Fat Leonard was arrested in 2013. He pleaded not guilty, and awaits trial.