SAN DIEGO — The first active-duty U.S. Navy ever convicted of a federal crime was sentenced today to months in prison for lying to investigators to conceal his illicit 20-year relationship with Leonard Glenn Francis, the foreign defense contractor at the center of a colossal bribery and fraud scandal.
U.S. Navy Rear Robert pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements on June 9, 2016, admitting that he lied when he told federal agents that he had never received any gifts from Francis, owner of Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia. The company provided ship husbanding services such as trash and sewage removal, food, water, security and fuel to U.S. Navy ships.
According to the government’s sentencing memo, did indeed receive many expensive gifts plus cash from Francis since 1997. The long history between the two men involved many late nights of partying at nightclubs and karaoke bars, fine dining, luxury hotels and prostitutes — all paid for by Francis. For his part, signed off on inflated GDMA invoices which grossly overbilled the Navy.
When the massive corruption and fraud were discovered, repeatedly lied to investigators from Defense Criminal Investigative Service and Naval Criminal Investigative Service about his relationship with Francis. When became aware that Francis and others had been arrested in connection with the fraud and bribery offenses in September 2013, destroyed documents and deleted computer files. And he continued to lie.
During the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino noted that reaction to the arrests was “a systematic destruction of records.” “You did everything possible to hide and conceal your relationship with Leonard Francis and in the process you tried to thwart the investigation…You violated the law. You dishonored your shipmates, the Navy and the United States of America.”
, who is free on bond, was ordered to report to the custody of the Bureau of Prisons on June 23, 2017.
“This is the first time our nation will incarcerate a Navy for a federal crime committed during the course of his official duty, and it is truly a somber day,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Alana W. Robinson. “When tempted by parties and prostitutes, one of our most respected leaders chose karaoke over character, and cover-up over confession, and in doing so he forever tarnished the reputation of a revered institution.”
“Today’s sentencing of Rear Robert closes a sad chapter on a naval flag officer’s career tarnished by dishonorable behavior such as lying, destroying evidence and concealing the acceptance of gifts and gratuities from a defense contractor,” said Dermot F. O’Reilly, Director, Defense Criminal Investigative Service. “As this investigation has shown, no one is above the law, regardless of rank or status, and they will be held accountable just as anyone else who has benefitted from this criminal scheme. The sentencing of continues the tireless efforts and commitment of DCIS, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and the Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute any individual who places at risk the safety and security of our armed forces personnel.”
“NCIS, in concert with our partner agencies, remains resolved to follow the evidence wherever it may lead in the ongoing investigation into Glenn Defense Marine Asia and NCIS will seek to hold accountable anyone, regardless of rank, who tries to hamper the investigation by lying or obstructing justice in any manner,” said NCIS Director Andrew Traver.
According to the government sentencing memo, first met Francis when served aboard the USS Boxer in 1997. During a multi-day port visit to Bali, Indonesia, Francis plied and another U.S. Navy officer with hotel rooms, dinners and the services of prostitutes.
In 2003, when the pair became reacquainted, was serving on the USS Nimitz. He again accepted hotel rooms, lavish dinners and prostitutes from Francis on several occasions.
After several of these escapades, personally approved GDMA invoices which inflated the charges to the U.S. Navy. In one instance, signed an invoice for the removal of wastewater from the ship during the port visit to Singapore in October 2003. Based on signature, the Navy paid for the highest per-day volumes of wastewater removal in the history of the USS Nimitz. In return, evidence in the investigation suggests GDMA kicked back $40,000 cash to . denies this allegation.
Francis also had contact with in 2005, when returned to Singapore to coordinate the U.S. Navy’s tsunami relief efforts. , who called himself “Tsunami Bob,” partied with Francis on three or four occasions, typically with an expensive dinner, followed by Brix Nightclub and Tiananmen Karaoke Bar.
According to other information received and reviewed as part of the investigation, on several occasions, Francis paid for hotel rooms and provided other things of value, during his stint in Singapore in 2005. According to interview statements and corroborating documents, Francis and again dined and caroused together in December 2010. On this occasion, Francis, – who had been promoted in the interim to Rear – and ‘s flag aide, dined at the Mezza9 Restaurant in the Hyatt Hotel in Singapore. After returning his flag aide to her hotel after dinner, rejoined Francis to continue the party at Brix Nightclub and the after party at Tiananmen Karaoke Bar.
To cap the evening, Francis drove and two prostitutes from Vietnam back to hotel. The next day, Francis emailed inquiring of the evening’s conclusion. Francis wrote: “How was the after action from the 1st night? Require AAR (After Action Report) Sir.” replied, “Very nice . BZ.” “BZ” is a Navy term meaning “Bravo Zulu,” which means “well done.”
According to the sentencing memo, things started to unravel for in September 2012, when he became aware that Francis and GDMA were under investigation by NCIS for various fraud and public corruption offenses.
On November 27, 2012, submitted to his command a Foreign Contact Questionnaire, wherein he disclosed a September 26, 2012 contact with Francis, and in which he willfully, falsely stated “No” in answer to the question: “Have you ever received any gifts from [Leonard G. Francis]?”
In a subsequent voluntary interview by NCIS agents on February 20, 2013, stated that he and Francis met about three times a year but that defendant “always pa[id] for his half of the dinner.” That statement, too, was false: Francis paid for dinners, hotel rooms, and prostitutes for on many occasions.
According to the sentencing memo, after the arrests of Francis and others in 2013, , while serving in Afghanistan, became paranoid and erratic. He asked for direction on how to wipe clean his electronic devices; he refused to meet with others unless they removed the batteries from their cell phones; he removed his aides’ access to his U.S. Navy email accounts; and he destroyed and/or deleted certain paper records and computer files. was charged in June of 2016.
Twenty current and former Navy officials have been charged so far in the fraud and bribery investigation; 10 have pleaded guilty and 10 cases are pending. In addition, five GDMA executives and GDMA the corporation have pleaded guilty.
In his remarks at today’s hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Pletcher told the court:
“Today, Your Honor, is a solemn and tragic day, for Bob , his family and friends, but also for the United States Navy, and our nation Beyond the tragedy, today is also a day of great importance, as one of finality for Mr. ; one of healing for the U.S. Navy; and more broadly, it is one of great importance for our constitutional democracy. We the People consent to be governed. We live by the Rule of Law, applicable to all regardless of rank, stature or privilege. In our Country, no one is above the law.”
The Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Defense Contract Audit Agency are investigating. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark W. Pletcher and Patrick Hovakimian of the Southern District of California and Assistant Chief Brian R. Young of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.