Federal prosecutors announced the arrest of a former high-ranking Defense Department civilian in the international Navy bribery scandal involving the military contractor known as “Fat Leonard.”
Paul Simpkins, a 60-year-old former senior contracting officer for the U.S. Navy, was arrested and charged Tuesday in Virginia on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery.
A criminal complaint alleges Simpkins accepted several hundred thousand dollars in cash and wire transfers, travel, hotel rooms, entertainment expenses and prostitutes from Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), the Singapore-based company led by Leonard Glenn Francis, known in military circles as Fat Leonard.
Francis pleaded guilty last month to giving military officials prostitutes, travel and cash in exchange for classified information that allowed his company to overbill the U.S. government by more than $20 million.
Simpkins worked as a supervisory contract special for the Navy in Singapore in 2005 and became a manager at the Department of Defense’s Office of Small Business Programs in 2007.
The complaint says in early 2006, Simpkins and Francis met several times at a Singapore hotel, where Francis hand-delivered $150,000 in cash. He also wired money to Simpkin’s wife’s bank account, and Simpkins allegedly used the email account of his mistress to give Francis his wife’s banking information.
In return, Simpkins is accused of helping steer Navy contracts in Francis’ direction. The complaint says he interceded on GDMA’s behalf in contract disputes, even overruling his subordinate’s recommendation that the company’s contract not be renewed due to “many exceedingly high cost” items.
According to the court document, Simpkins also told Navy officials in Hong Kong to stop using meters to measure how much liquid waste GDMA removed from Navy ships under its contract. If the meters had been used, they would have calculated the actual amount of waste to ensure the company was not overbilling the government, prosecutors say.
After Francis complained some Navy personnel were asking questions about his billing, Simpkins is suspected of telling a Navy official not to review GDMA invoices from a Hong Kong port visit.
“As we've mentioned previously, the GDMA investigation is far from over,” said Director Andrew L. Traver of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). “NCIS will follow the evidence wherever it leads, to bring to justice those who were involved in perpetrating this massive fraud on the Department of the Navy and the American taxpayer. Active leads remain and NCIS will stay on the case until our work is done.”
U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy says the government wants Simpkins to be transferred to San Diego to face charges in the Southern District of California, so he will appear at a detention hearing in Virginia Wednesday. Simpkins faces five years in prison if he is found guilty.
The NCIS and Defense Department Investigative Service are continuing the investigation and hinted more arrests were to come after Francis turned in his guilty plea. He and six others, including high-ranking Navy officers and Francis’ own cousin, have admitted to their part in the scheme.