Retired Navy Captain, CPO Plead Guilty to Bribery Charges in Latest ‘Fat Leonard’ Development

 In Forces & Capabilities, Sea, U.S. Navy

Undated photo of Leonard Francis

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – A retired Navy captain who collected nearly $91,000 in favors for sharing classified U.S. 7th Fleet ship schedules and steering logistics contracts to a foreign defense firm will plead guilty, according to federal court records. The plea marks the latest conviction in the Glenn Defense Marine Asia corruption investigation.

Retired Capt. David Williams Haas, who served as 7th Fleet’s operations officer on its flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) from August 2011 to July 2013, was indicted in 2018 on eight counts: one count of conspiracy to commit bribery, six counts of bribery and one count of conspiracy to commit honest fraud. The federal grand jury alleged Haas had collected bribes, including cash, in 2011 and 2012, and had accepted pricey hotel stays, dinners, parties and prostitute services provided to him and others Navy officials from Leonard Glenn Francis in exchange for getting lucrative ship-husbanding contracts steered to Glenn’s firm, Glenn Defense Marine Asia.

On Tuesday, Haas pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit bribery, a felony charge that could net him up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 fine, according to court records. He also agreed to pay restitution to the government of $90,968.82.

Also this week, retired Chief Petty Officer Brooks Alonzo Parks, who was indicted along with Haas in August 2018, agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery, according to court records. His sentencing hearing is set for Aug. 28. Parks originally was indicted on a single count of conspiracy to commit “honest fraud” services. A superseding indictment issued in June 2019 charged him with additional offenses of one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and four counts of bribery.

Parks, who retired in 2016, had worked at Afloat Training Group Western Pacific from 2008 to 2013. From 2005 to 2008 he was 7th Fleet’s logistics lead petty officer, a job that included managing parts of the logistics budget and signing and processing invoices, according to federal indictments filed in U.S. District Court in San Diego.

The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, Robert S. Brewer, signed both plea agreements that were submitted to the court and will be reviewed by a federal magistrate judge who will oversee the sentencing hearings.

Both guilty pleas come two years after Haas and Parks were indicted. But it’s been nearly seven years since the first indictments and arrests in a federal investigation into a wide-ranging favors-for-contracts scandal that’s ensnared senior flag officers and commanders, logistics specialists, and a Naval Criminal Investigation Service agent.

The latest plea deals submitted to the court admit a number of illicit solicitations and acceptance of favors that GDMA provided as part of the conspiracy to steer 7th Fleet contracts to the Singapore-based company starting in 2004 and continuing until 2013, when senior GDMA executives were indicted. While husbanding firms compete for U.S. Navy ship visits to foreign ports, GDMA executives sought to skew the process in its favor by getting insider information – some of it classified – from a wide range of Navy officials in return for various types of bribes and favors.

In one case, illegal solicitations for favors led to events such as the “Cinderella Liberty” weekend in May 2012, when Francis paid for rooms at the luxury Shangri-La Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia, for Haas and others, according to the plea agreement, dated June 9, 2020, and submitted to the court. “Festivities included dinner, entertainment at a night club, alcohol, and the services of prostitutes in a hotel suite where Haas was present,” according to the plea agreement that federal prosecutors submitted to the court.

In June 2012, “Francis paid for a two-day party for Haas and others, including transportation, dinner at Nobu Restaurant, and entertainment at several hostess clubs where the services of prostitutes were provided, all at a total cost of about $75,000,” the document stated.

Two months later, the Navy approved a port visit by the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) to Sepangar, Malaysia, after the service initially had opposed it, according to the document. Francis later thanked Haas and others by emails, and GDMA “ultimately billed the U.S. Navy $2.7 million for this port visit.”

Haas, in the plea agreement, admitted to collecting bribes valued at $90,968.82 from GDMA.

In November 2012, Francis had sent Haas “numerous internal U.S. Navy documents that (he) had illegally received” and asked him to intervene for him “to fight accusations that GDMA had dumped untreated sewage in Subic Bay, Philippines,” according to the plea deal. After Haas sent various news articles about the incident to other 7th Fleet officials, Francis responded by email at one point that “this is headed in the right direction.”

But three months later, Francis’ long-running and lucrative bribes-for-contracts arrangement, which included contracting assurances, false billings, over-inflated invoices for husbanding services, was nearing its end.

Navy officials traveled to Thailand in February 2013 “to investigate allegations of fraudulent over-billing by GDMA related to the purported port authority Laem Thong East,” Haas’ plea agreement stated. “When presented with mounting documentary evidence of GDMA’s over-billing, Haas wrote to a conspirator: ‘This is getting hard.’”

While Haas had conspired with Francis closer to the end of Francis’ reign, Parks had been involved in the scheme from the start, according to the plea agreement.

“GDMA’s main business involved the ‘husbanding’ of marine vessels, a service it had provided across the Seventh Fleet’s area of responsibility under various contracts with the U.S. Navy for over 25 years,” federal prosecutors stated in Parks’ plea agreement.

Starting in “early 2006 and continuing into 2010,” the agreement stated, Parks conspired with GDMA and agreed to commit bribery and “would demand, seek, receive, and accept things of value from Francis and others, including gifts, transportation, hotel expenses, and airline tickets.”

Parks admitted to several bribes.

In June 2006, Parks wrote to Francis asking for a hotel suite reservation and, in an email, wrote, “It feels good living like a KING on an E-6’s salary!!”

In three separate times in early 2007, Parks asked GDMA for hotel reservations in Hong Kong, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur that cost more than $3,000 each. At one point, emails between GDMA executives wrote of Parks, “what is he doing for us and can we make any money out of him?” In March 2007, after GDMA officials had sought his help to get the Navy to pay for an invoice, Neil Peterson, GDMA’s vice president of global operations, wrote: “Finally he’s doing something good for us!!… We will make good use of him since he’s going to be onboard until 2009!!”

In early June 2007, Parks had sent Peterson the itinerary for the Blue Ridge‘s supply officer, who was to travel to the Philippines just as another company vied for the husbanding contract to support another ship’s visit to Cebu. Peterson received the competitor’s information from Parks and forwarded it to Francis, writing “Looks like Parks pulled through for us again… haha.”

For several years, Parks continued to share sensitive, proprietary information about ships’ schedules and competitor pricing data and invoices to GDMA executives, including the port visit schedules for the guided-missile destroyers USS Paul Hamilton (DDG-60) and USS Stethem (DDG-63). Parks admitted to getting bribes worth $25,405 from GDMA. He has agreed to pay the U.S. Navy $25,405 in restitution.

Francis was arrested and charged in September 2013 by the federal prosecutors in San Diego, which have the lead in pursuing more than three dozen cases involving Navy officials and GDMA executives. In January 2015, he waived indictment and agreed to plead guilty to three counts: conspiracy to commit bribery; bribery; and conspiracy to defraud the United States.

Francis, who reportedly has suffered from poor health, has remained in U.S. federal custody as his sentencing hearings have been postponed and rescheduled several times. In December, the federal judge overseeing his case set his sentencing for March 26, 2021.

USNI source|articles

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