Navy bribery scandal still unfolding 8 years after the arrest of 'Fat Leonard'
For almost eight years, San Diego has been at the heart of one of the largest scandals in Navy history.
It has been years since the Malaysian contractor Leonard Glenn Francis, aka "Fat Leonard," has pleaded guilty to bribing Navy officials with prostitutes, alcohol and expensive trips to allow contractors to dock Navy ships throughout the western Pacific.
Former Wall Street Journal reporter Tom Wright talked to Francis for the podcast “Fat Leonard.”
“There are stories of the senior chain of command of the 7th Fleet. Attending orgies where Leonard says that he recorded orgies — using cameras put into the karaoke machines,” Wright said.
Rising to prominence in the late 1990s with his company Glenn Defense Marine, Francis had been silent since he was arrested in San Diego in November 2013. He pleaded guilty to federal charges in 2015.
Wright said Francis was in part a product of the War on Terror, when defense budgets swelled and the need for security increased in ports around the world, at a time when the U.S. Navy wanted to be more visible in the western Pacific region.
“After Sept. 11, he becomes extremely wealthy. Because of the need to protect the fleet and they're huge amounts of Defense spending that time,” Wright said.
At least 27 current and former members of the military have also pleaded guilty, including two this year. Others are set to go on trial next year, including retired Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless. Francis is the federal prosecutors' star witness, and he remains under house arrest in San Diego without being sentenced.
Wright is based in Singapore and says he was able to reach Francis through another source. Wright describes Francis as being frustrated at being in legal limbo while the rest of the trials proceed.
“He's got kidney cancer, and so one of the one of his reasons for talking, I believe, is that he's he's he's probably going to die, although he was he didn't tell me exactly,” Wright said. “As he discusses on the podcast about his cancer you'll see that that's definitely a factor in why he decided to talk.”
Not everyone has faced federal charges, prosecutors turned over some names to the Navy, which has not publicly stated how or whether those officers were reprimanded.
The Navy has put some reforms in place since the Fat Leonard case became public.
Leonard boasted of having intimate details of the movements of Navy ships in the Pacific. He was even able to stymie the Navy’s investigation through a source at Naval Criminal Investigative Services.
Earlier this week, federal officials also announced another major bribery scandal involving the Navy’s Fifth Fleet.