A retired United States Navy admiral and eight other high-ranking officers were indicted on Tuesday in a widening bribery scandal in which prosecutors say a foreign contractor traded luxury travel, lavish gifts and prostitutes for inside intelligence.
A total of 25 military officers and private-sector executives have now been prosecuted in one of the worst corruption scandals to hit the military in years.
Prosecutors, laying out in unsparing detail a plot that stretched from Singapore to Washington, accused the officers — all with the Seventh Fleet in the Pacific, the Navy’s largest — of betraying the public trust for bribes from a well-connected military contractor in Singapore, Leonard Glenn Francis, known as Fat Leonard. The scheme cost the Navy “tens of millions of dollars” in overbillings to Mr. Francis’ firm, as he relied on sensitive and sometimes classified information the officers had given them to game the system, according to the indictment.
The yearslong bribery scheme “amounts to a staggering degree of corruption by the most prominent leaders of the Seventh Fleet,” said Alana W. Robinson, the acting United States attorney in San Diego, where the charges were brought.
The officers “actively worked together as a team to trade secrets for sex, serving the interests of a greedy foreign defense contractor, and not those of their own country,” Ms. Robinson said.
The most prominent official charged on Tuesday was Bruce Loveless, a retired rear admiral who was taken into custody that day at his home in Coronado, Calif., outside San Diego. The admiral was knocked down a rank after he came under investigation in 2013; with two stars before the demotion, he was the highest-ranking officer to be charged in the scandal. Another one-star admiral, Robert Gilbeau, was charged earlier in the case.
The indictment dates Admiral Loveless’s involvement in the scheme to 2007, when he was a Navy captain involved in assessing foreign intelligence threats for the Seventh Fleet. In one of many lavish events cataloged in the indictment, prosecutors said Mr. Francis, the military contractor, took Admiral Loveless and another defendant, Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Shedd, out for a $5,000 night of wining and dining in Singapore and gave Commander Shedd and his wife $25,000 watches at the end of the night.
Prosecutors contend that Commander Shedd then gave classified intelligence about Navy contracts and fleet movements to Mr. Francis, who was chief executive of a contractor called Glenn Defense Marine Asia, which had extensive United States military contracts. At the contractor’s behest, Commander Shedd passed on “cigars and fine wine” to Admiral Loveless and other Navy officers involved in the exchange, prosecutors said.
According to the indictment, after a night of fine dining and prostitutes in Bangkok, Commander Shedd emailed Mr. Francis to say that Admiral Loveless and two other officers who were hosted for the event “were all smiles on the drive home over their ‘one night in Bangkok.’ ”
The indictment also accuses Admiral Loveless of obstructing the bribery investigation by denying knowledge of the scheme.
Asked by Navy investigators in 2013 whether he had ever received anything of value from Mr. Francis, Admiral Loveless responded “never,” prosecutors said. And he said he did not recall ever staying in a hotel room that he had not paid for, the prosecutors said, despite evidence that Mr. Francis had paid the bill for numerous stays for him and others at lavish hotels around Asia where ships from the Seventh Fleet were docked.
Mr. Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 in San Diego, as have 10 former military officers previously charged in the case.
Source: The New York Times