National News

US Navy commander pleads guilty in 'Fat Leonard' bribery scandal

Posted August 15
Updated August 16

An active-duty US Navy commander pleaded guilty Tuesday in a major corruption scandal involving a Singapore-based defense contractor.

According to a statement from the Department of Justice, Bobby Pitts, 48, conspired to defraud the Navy in connection with an investigation into Leonard Glenn Francis, the owner and CEO of Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA).

Naval investigators had been probing whether Francis -- known as "Fat Leonard" -- was overcharging the Navy for ship fueling, repairs and other services.

Prosecutors said Pitts shared internal Navy documents about the investigation with Francis, and helped him cover up GDMA's fraudulent practices, which prosecutors previously said cost "millions of taxpayer dollars."

Pitts will be sentenced on December 1. He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

'Fleecing and betrayal'

Pitts is one of 18 of 27 defendants who have pleaded guilty in the scandal, which acting US Attorney Alana Robinson described in March as "fleecing and betrayal of the United States Navy in epic proportions, (which) was allegedly carried out by the Navy's highest-ranking officers."

He is the latest in a string of senior officers to be implicated n the "Fat Leonard" case, which has been unfolding since 2013, including Cmdrs. Jose Luis Sanchez and Mario Herrera, and Rear Adm. Robert Gilbeau.

In March, a grand jury indicted Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless and eight other high-ranking naval officers with accepting luxury travel, elaborate dinners and the services of prostitutes from GDMA.

The indictment, unsealed earlier this year, included references to a 2007 party in the MacArthur Suite of a Manila hotel during a USS Blue Ridge port visit. According to the indictment, the party was attended by a number of Navy members and prostitutes.

"During the party, historical memorabilia related to Gen. Douglas MacArthur were used by the participants in sexual acts," the indictment said.

It also claimed Francis picked up a $50,000 bill for hotel expenses for a number of the defendants staying at Singapore's Shangri-La Hotel in February 2007.

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