Federal prosecutors arrested a third senior Navy official in a widening bribery scandal Wednesday, charging that he delivered classified and other sensitive information to a major defense contractor in exchange for prostitutes, luxury travel and more than $100,000 in cash.
Cmdr. Jose Luis Sanchez, 41, was arrested in Tampa on charges that he gave classified information about ship movements to Glenn Defense Marine Asia, a Singapore-based contractor that has resupplied and serviced Navy ships and submarines in the Pacific for a quarter-century.
The bribery case is shaping up as the biggest the Navy has confronted in years. Another Navy commander and a senior investigator for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service were arrested in September, likewise on charges of providing inside information to Glenn Defense Marine in exchange for prostitutes and other favors.
A Navy captain who is also under investigation was relieved of his ship’s command last month, although he has not been charged.
In charging documents unsealed Wednesday, federal investigators said Sanchez gave classified ship visit schedules and other information to Glenn Defense Marine starting in 2009, when he was serving as a senior logistics officer for the Navy’s 7th Fleet in Japan. The arrangement continued until Sanchez transferred to Florida in April, court papers say.
In exchange, according to prosecutors, Sanchez and a group of Navy friends that he called the “Wolf Pack” rendezvoused multiple times with female escorts in hotel rooms across Asia — all paid for by the chief executive of Glenn Defense Marine, a Malaysian national named Leonard Glenn Francis.
Investigators said Sanchez and Francis communicated surreptitiously via e-mail and Facebook. Sanchez referred to the defense contractor as “Lion King” and “Boss,” while Francis called the commander “Brudda.”
Francis is a well-known figure in Navy circles, where he is known as “Fat Leonard” for his girth; he weighs about 350 pounds, according to court papers.
He was arrested in September in San Diego after federal investigators lured him to the United States on the pretense of a business meeting with Navy officials. Another Glenn Defense Marine executive was arrested at the same time. Both have pleaded not guilty but remain in custody pending trial.
Prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office in San Diego are overseeing the investigation, along with senior officials from the Justice Department. They said they will seek to have Sanchez brought there to face charges.
“Day by day, this massive Navy fraud and bribery investigation continues to widen, and as the charges announced today show, we will follow the evidence wherever it takes us,” acting assistant attorney general Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s criminal division said in a statement.
Navy officials declined to comment on Sanchez’s arrest, citing the ongoing investigation. In September, the Navy terminated three major contracts with Glenn Defense Marine worth nearly $200 million total.
“The Navy expects our leaders to uphold the highest standards of conduct and professionalism,” Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Navy’s chief spokesman, said in a statement. “As the work of this investigation concludes, we will make public as much information as possible. But we will do nothing to prejudice or preclude the important work investigators need to do and are doing.”