Twenty-five thousand dollar watches? Six hundred dollar a night hotel rooms? “A rotating carousel of prostitutes”? No one told us that joining the Navy and seeing the world was so decadent, but then again, no one told the Navy or the Department of Justice either. That could be why the DoJ rounded up eight officers yesterday., including the admiral who served as director of intelligence operations, and indicted them for corruption in the infamous “Fat Leonard” scandal:
The Justice Department unsealed a fresh indictment Tuesday charging eight Navy officials — including an admiral — with corruption and other crimes in the “Fat Leonard” bribery case, escalating an epic scandal that has dogged the Navy for four years.
Among those charged were Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless, a senior Navy intelligence officer who recently retired from a key job at the Pentagon, as well as four retired Navy captains and a retired Marine colonel. The charges cover a period of eight years, from 2006 through 2014.
The Navy personnel are accused of taking bribes in the form of lavish gifts, prostitutes and luxury hotel stays courtesy of Leonard Glenn “Fat Leonard” Francis, a Singapore-based defense contractor who has pleaded guilty to defrauding the Navy of tens of millions of dollars.
It’s not just corruption, either. The eight, including the man who ran intelligence operations for the Navy, are accused of passing along classified information to Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), the DoJ said in its statement yesterday (received by e-mail):
According to the indictment, the Navy officers allegedly participated in a bribery scheme with Leonard Francis, in which the officers accepted travel and entertainment expenses, the services of prostitutes and lavish gifts in exchange for helping to steep lucrative contracts to Francis and GDMA and to sabotage competing defense contractors. The defendants allegedly violated many of their sworn official naval duties, including duties related to the handling of classified information and duties related to the identification and reporting of foreign intelligence threats. According to the indictment, the defendants allegedly worked in concert to recruit new members for the conspiracy, and to keep the conspiracy secret by using fake names and foreign email service providers. According to the indictment, the bribery scheme allegedly cost the Navy – and U.S. taxpayers – tens of millions of dollars.
The indictment can be found here. Bear in mind that indictments are not convictions, and that these men will have a chance to answer these charges in court. However, the DoJ already has guilty pleas from ten other Navy personnel indicted earlier in the scandal, as well as three GDMA officials. Based on what appears in the indictment, some of them may have been cooperating with investigators, as the allegations appear detailed and, er … intimate, especially when it comes to Douglas MacArthur memorabilia (page 23, lines 5-7). Yecch.
This solves an earlier mystery from almost fourteen months ago, too. The Washington Post reported in January 2016 that the Navy’s top man in intelligence, Admiral Ted “Twig” Branch, had his clearances revoked in 2013 and could no longer access any classified information — but yet remained in his post in intelligence work. Loveless was one of his deputies at that time and included in the same report. Craig Whitlock reported that the three-year probe into “Fat Leonard” had not yet been completed, and so the Navy was “frozen” on Branch and Loveless. Branch finally retired later in 2016, after getting passed up for promotion, and in July the Navy finally had an intelligence chief that could access intelligence again.
Perhaps this round of indictments spells an end to the scandal, and Branch can enjoy his retirement. It still leaves lots of questions about why the Navy left him in that position for years while being prevented from performing the vital job assigned to him, and how Branch somehow missed his own deputy’s corruption.