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Fat Leonard Probe Continues To Implicate Naval Officers

U.S. Navy sailors stand on a deck in this undated photo.

Credit: United States Department of Defense

Above: U.S. Navy sailors stand on a deck in this undated photo.

After four years, the largest Navy corruption scandal in history continues to unfold in San Diego. Federal prosecutors and the U.S. military are taking action against a growing list of officers caught up in the “Fat Leonard” probe.

Leonard Glenn Francis was arrested in San Diego in 2013. Dubbed “Fat Leonard” because he weighed a reported 350 pounds, the Malaysian businessman is believed to have defrauded the U.S. government out of $35 million with the help of naval officers in the Pacific. He offered a host of bribes, including lavish meals and prostitutes. In exchange, they helped steer Navy ships to ports owned by Francis in the western Pacific.

On Friday, retired Commander Bobby Pitts was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for funneling information to Francis. From his position at the U.S. Navy’s Fleet Industrial Supply Command in Singapore, from 2009 to 2001, Pitts forwarded information about the Navy investigation into Francis’ Glenn Defense Marine Asia.

RELATED: Navy Grappling With Ethical Issues Raised By Fat Leonard Case

Photo credit: Defense Department

Capt. John Steinberger, right, and Capt. Michael L. Elliot during change of command ceremony at Naval Base San Diego, Oct 12, 2012.

Four years into the federal court case, the military justice system is also beginning to step up prosecutions. On Tuesday, Capt. John Steinberger, the former commander of San Diego-based Destroyer Squadron One, faced a court-martial in Norfolk, Virginia. He is also charged with accepting bribes.

The Washington Post recently reported that as many as 60 admirals and hundreds of officers remain under investigation in the wide-ranging investigation. More than 20 officers have been charged in federal court.

Francis pleaded guilty in 2015. He remains in custody in San Diego, pending sentencing. He is believed to be cooperating with prosecutors.

The federal court in San Diego remains ground zero for the wide-ranging Navy corruption scandal, seen as the largest in naval history.

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