A senior U.S. Navy criminal investigator tipped off an Asian defense contractor at the center of a multimillion-dollar fraud investigation and downloaded more than 100 confidential files in exchange for luxury trips and prostitution services, prosecutors said.
John Beliveau II pleaded guilty to bribery charges Tuesday in federal court in San Diego.
As he arrived at the courthouse, Beliveau was asked how he felt about pleading guilty in the case. "Well, we'll get it done," he replied.
The conviction is a first for federal prosecutors in the massive scandal that has ensnared six Navy officials so far and could lead to an expansion of the probe if Beliveau cooperates with authorities as part of his plea agreement.
Prosecutors say Leonard Francis, 49, the CEO of Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd., or GDMA, overbilled the Navy by at least $20 million. They said the scheme included giving bribes to Navy officers who would provide Leonard with confidential ship route information or direct the movement of Navy vessels to Asian ports with lax oversight so the company could inflate costs and invent tariffs by using phony port authorities.
For two years beginning in 2011, Beliveau deliberately leaked the names of cooperating witnesses, reports of witness interviews, and plans for future investigative steps to Francis, according to court documents.
In exchange for the assistance from the Navy officials, Francis, known in military circles as "Fat Leonard," lined up prostitutes, hotel stays and tickets to shows, including a Lady Gaga concert in Thailand, according to a criminal complaint.
The plea agreement states that Francis allegedly provided the Beliveau with envelopes containing cash on at least five occasions, along with luxury travel from Virginia to Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand.
Beliveau also admitted he used his special training as a law enforcement agent to help Francis avoid detection. Among the tactics, the two used covert email accounts and Skype chat to comunicate.
Investigators planted bogus reports including one that claimed the investigation into Francis was over. Prosecutors say that's what led Francis to travel to San Diego in September where he would be arrested.
Francis and his cousin, Alex Wisidagama, a company manager who was also arrested, have pleaded not guilty to charges in the case. Navy Cmdr. Jose Luis Sanchez and Cmdr. Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz also have pleaded not guilty.
GDMA has provided fuel, food and supplies for Navy ships for 25 years. The investigation started in 2009.
According to the complaint, Beliveau, 44, kept Francis abreast of the Navy's probe and advised him on how to respond. He downloaded at least 125 sensitive records from the case files of his fellow Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents, according to charging documents.
The two exchanged thousands of text messages, and at one point, Francis bragged to an associate in an email: "'I have inside Intel from NCIS and read all the reports,"' according to court documents.
“This is an audacious violation of law for a decorated federal agent who valued personal pleasure over loyalty to his colleagues, the U.S. Navy and ultimately his own country," U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said in an official release.
"This isn't only bad news for Leonard Glenn Francis, but I suspect there are a number of yet unnamed Navy people who are (and should be) worried," Michael T. Corgan, a Vietnam veteran who teaches international relations at Boston University, said in an email.
"Something of the scope that this scandal embraces didn't happen without a reasonably widespread acceptance of bad practice," he wrote.
Beliveau, who once served as a personal security adviser to the Admiral in charge of the Seventh Fleet, could face a maximum sentence of 20 years.
Sentencing was set for March 7 at 9 a.m. before Judge Sammartino.