$18K Rooftop Proposal Gifted to Guided-Missile Destroyer's Commander in Bribery Scandal, Navy Says - NBC 7 San Diego

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$18K Rooftop Proposal Gifted to Guided-Missile Destroyer's Commander in Bribery Scandal, Navy Says

Capt. Heedong Choi served as the Commanding Officer of the guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee from 2008 to 2013

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    $18K Rooftop Proposal Gifted to Guided-Missile Destroyer's Commander in Bribery Scandal, Navy Says
    Petty Officer 1st Class Bobbie Attaway
    Cmdr. Heedong Choi, commanding officer of the guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee, holds a press conference with Korean media on the ship's bridge. Chafee was participating in Foal Eagle 2009, an annual joint exercise involving forces from the United States and the Republic of Korea. Image dated March 12, 2009.

    What to Know

    • Leonard Glenn "Fat Leonard" Francis was a foreign defense contractor and CEO of Glenn Defense Marine Asia.

    • Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 to providing Navy officials with prostitutes and cash and to defrauding the U.S. government.

    • As of February 2019, 33 defendants have been charged and 22 have pleaded guilty.

    A U.S. Navy captain, whose elaborate marriage proposal was bankrolled by a Singapore businessman convicted of bribing senior Navy officials and defrauding the government, received a formal letter of censure for demonstrating “exceedingly poor judgment and leadership."

    Capt. Heedong Choi served as the Commanding Officer of the guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee from 2008 to 2013, according to the letter from the U.S. Secretary of the Navy dated April 26.

    For the last decade, however, Choi has had an ongoing relationship with Leonard "Fat Leonard" Francis.

    Among the gifts the commanding officer accepted was an elaborate private dinner on the helipad of a 5-star Singapore hotel complete with a jazz ensemble to propose to his girlfriend on June 6, 2009.  Francis paid $18,000 for the event, according to the censure.

    Choi sent emails to Francis expressing his loyalty to the businessman and accepted gifts over the course of a decade ranging from discounted hotel rooms to flowers, cigars and Dom Perignon champagne.

    Choi was also guilty of committing the offense of graft by accepting gifts worth more than $25,000 for services to the GDMA owner, according to the letter from the U.S. Secretary of the Navy.

    “Your willingness to accept those gifts provided the worst type of example for subordinate officers within your chain of command and other officers who observed your interaction with Mr. Francis,” the letter stated.

    Then, when interviewed about the ongoing bribery investigation, Choi lied to investigators about his relationship with Francis, the government said. In December 2012, he even alerted Francis about the government’s investigation.

    In 2015, Francis pleaded guilty to bribery and fraud charges in a decade-long conspiracy involving a number of U.S. Navy officials.

    NBC 7 has been following this investigation since September 2013.

    A view from the rooftop of Swissotel in Singapore with an inset of Capt. Heedong Choi taken in August 2015.
    Photo credit: Scott Thornbloom/US Navy/Getty Images

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