U.S. Navy officer pleads guilty to bribery in corruption probe

U.S. Navy officer pleaded guilty to bribery in federal court on Wednesday in the latest development in a widening corruption scandal, admitting he gave classified information to a Malaysian businessman in exchange for prostitution services and other benefits.

Lieutenant Commander Todd Malaki, 44, pleaded guilty in San Diego to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery in an appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mitchell Dembin of the Southern District of California, the U.S. Justice Department said.

The case involved defense contractor executive Leonard Glenn Francis, dubbed “Fat Leonard,” who was accused of bribing high-ranking U.S. naval officers to steer millions of dollars of contract services to his company. Francis pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges in San Diego in January.

Malaki is the eighth person to plead guilty in the expanding probe into corruption and fraud in the Navy, the Justice Department said.

Malaki admitted that while he was working as a supply officer for the Navy’s Seventh Fleet in 2006 he began a corrupt relationship with Francis, the former president and chief executive of Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), a company that provided services to the Navy, the department said.

Malaki gave Francis classified Navy ship schedules and proprietary invoicing information about GDMA’s competitors, and in exchange received luxury hotel stays in Singapore, Hong Kong and Tonga, the services of a prostitute, and envelopes of cash, the department said. The total value of these benefits was about $15,000, the department said.

Malaki, due to be sentenced on July 6, faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, according to Peter Carr, a Justice Department spokesman.

“Another Navy officer has now pleaded guilty and admitted to taking bribes to reveal classified military information to a major supplier,” Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said in a statement.

“It is both troubling and disappointing how many Navy officers we have exposed as willingly falling prey to GDMA’s corruption, and our investigation remains active and ongoing,” Caldwell added.

Francis’ company held more than $200 million in Navy contracts to provide services including cleaning, restocking, refueling and repairing Navy ships from the Seventh Fleet in Pacific ports in Singapore, Thailand, Japan and other locations.

Francis would then inflate the charges and demand kickbacks from GDMA’s subcontractors, according to prosecutors.

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