A long-running Navy corruption scandal reached new heights Friday as a lieutenant commander and two retired officers were arrested on federal charges of feeding inside information to a Singapore-based defense contractor for sex, vacations and other favors.
All three defendants are accused of acting as paid moles for the contractor, Glenn Defense Marine Asia, by leaking intelligence about criminal investigations into the company or other information to give the firm an unfair advantage over competitors.
The new cases bring the number of people charged in the mushrooming scandal to 14. Prosecutors have said that as many as 200 people are under investigation. According to Navy officials, about 30 admirals are under scrutiny for possible criminal or ethical violations.
Lt. Cmdr. Gentry DeBord, a supply and logistics officer, was charged in federal court in San Diego with conspiracy to commit bribery. An affidavit filed by federal investigators describes him as a sex-starved officer who routinely beseeched Glenn Defense executives to arrange prostitutes for him during port visits in Asia.
According to the affidavit, DeBord would email the executives in code, referring to prostitutes as “bodyguards” or “cheesecake,” or sometimes more obliquely as “food.” Emails excerpted in court files show Glenn Defense was happy to oblige and mocked him as “sex crazy.”
“Double checking to see if I will have my security,” DeBord emailed a Glenn Defense executive prior to a 2008 port visit to Manila. “I however do not want anyone to know I have a bodyguard.”
Neil Peterson, a Glenn Defense vice president, replied, “Bodyguards are standing by.”
A few months later, as he prepared to visit a port in Thailand, DeBord emailed: “Is it possible to send me a list of food items you have available (luxury items) like cheesecake, etc, so we can possibly add to our order?” On another occasion, he emailed photos of a woman with the message, “This is the cheesecake I want . . .”
According to an indictment in a second case, Michael George Brooks, a retired captain who served as U.S. naval attache in Manila, also had a strong sexual appetite. He allegedly used a different code to request prostitutes from Glenn Defense executives, referring to the women as “shakes,” “chocolate shakes,” “mocha shakes” or “high tea,” court papers show.
Brooks, of Fairfax Station, Va., is charged with granting diplomatic clearance to Glenn Defense so that it could bring armed guards into the Philippines, avoid inspections and dodge customs duties, according to the indictment against him.
According to the indictment, Brooks also allowed Glenn Defense executives to “ghostwrite” official Navy documents and correspondence as part of an elaborate scheme to protect the company’s contracts and win it more business.
Brooks served as the U.S. naval attache in Manila from 2006 to 2008 and worked on the behalf of the president of Glenn Defense, Leonard Glen Francis, until Brooks retired from the Navy in November 2011, according to the indictment. Since then, he has been employed as a contractor for the Pentagon’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency.
A second former officer, Bobby R. Pitts, a retired commander from Chesapeake, Va., was charged in a separate indictment with leaking Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) files to Glenn Defense to help the firm thwart fraud inquiries.
In return, he received meals, entertainment and — on “at least” one occasion — the services of a prostitute while he headed a Navy contracting office in Singapore between 2009 and 2011.
The three defendants separately made initial appearances Friday in federal court in California and Virginia after the charges against them were unsealed. All were released on bond. Attempts to reach them or their attorneys for comment were unsuccessful.
The scandal became public in September 2013 when federal agents lured Francis from Asia to San Diego in a sting operation. He has since pleaded guilty to bribing “scores” of Navy officials with prostitutes, cash, gifts, expensive meals and other temptations over a decade.
Francis, a large man known in maritime circles as “Fat Leonard,” and his company held more than $200 million worth of contracts to resupply and refuel Navy vessels across Asia. He has admitted to cheating the Navy out of at least $35 million by forging invoices, running kickback schemes and gouging for basic services.