US Navy commander pleads guilty to bribery charge in 'Fat Leonard' scandal
Posted January 31, 2018 10:00 p.m. EST
(CNN) — The largest corruption scandal in US Navy history has claimed another high-ranking officer following a guilty plea from a commander who once controlled the service's joint military exercises.
Former US Navy Cmdr. Troy Amundson, 50, admitted taking bribes, including accepting the services of several prostitutes, from foreign contractor Leonard Glenn Francis, known as "Fat Leonard," and his Singapore-based company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia.
In exchange, he sent US Navy business to the company, according to a statement from the US Attorney Office in San Diego, California.
"Amundson admitted that from September 2012 through October 2013, Francis paid for dinner, drinks, transportation, other entertainment expenses, and the services of prostitutes for Amundson and other US Navy officers," the US attorney's statement said.
The "Fat Leonard" investigation began in 2013, and so far 20 of 29 defendants charged have pleaded guilty. Francis, whose nickname comes from his then 400-pound heft, admitted bribery and fraud charges in 2015.
Amundson, of Ramsey, Minnesota, was responsible for coordinating exercises with foreign navies from May 2005 to May 2013, according to the US Attorney's statement. He pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery.
After he was interviewed by federal investigators in October 2013, Amundson deleted all correspondence between himself and Francis from his private email account, the statement said.
In one of those emails, Amundson promised to give proprietary US Navy information to Francis, prosecutors said.
"Handoff?... (My friend), your program is awesome. I (Amundson) am a small dog just trying to get a bone... however I am very happy with my small program. I still need five minutes to pass some data when we can meet up. Cannot print," Amundson wrote, according to the US attorney's statement.
Shortly after that email was sent, Francis arranged for several prostitutes from Mongolia to be sent to Amundson, prosecutors said.
Amundson "deliberately, methodically, and repeatedly traded his public office for entertainment expenses and the services of prostitutes, and in so doing, aligned himself with a foreign defense contractor over his Navy, his colleagues and his country," US Attorney Adam Braverman said in the statement. Amundson's sentencing in scheduled for April 27. He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Along with prostitutes, Francis and his company provided scores of US Navy officers with tens of millions of dollars in bribes, including cash, luxury travel, Cuban cigars, Kobe beef and Spanish suckling pigs, prosecutors said.
In exchange the US Navy officials steered ships to ports where Francis' company operated, providing service such as fuel and tugboats.
In March 2017, acting US Attorney Alana Robinson described the "Fat Leonard" scandal as "fleecing and betrayal of the United States Navy in epic proportions, (which) was allegedly carried out by the Navy's highest-ranking officers."
The scandal has touched on capitals and ports across the Pacific, including Singapore, Tokyo, Bangkok and Manila.