Navy Commander Pleads Guilty in Bribery Scandal

Commander Jose Luis Sanchez is the highest ranking official to accept a plea agreement in the federal investigation

A senior U.S. Navy official pleaded guilty Tuesday to his involvement in a widespread bribery ring in which classified information on ship movement was traded for cash, prostitutes and luxury travel.

U.S. Navy Commander Jose Luis Sanchez, 42, admitted to bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery in a plea deal.

From 2009 to 2013, Sanchez accepted prostitutes, luxury travel, entertainment  and $100,000 cash from Malaysian contractor Leonard Francis, known in military circles as "Fat Leonard," the plea agreement says. In exchange, Sanchez gave Francis, the CEO of Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), classified Navy ship schedules and other proprietary, internal information.

According to the plea deal, Sanchez would forward internal emails to Francis when they mentioned competitors or investigations into overbillings by GDMA, which coordinated and scheduled goods and services for Navy ships coming into port.

In one example, an email chain from 2011 shows Francis asking Sanchez to "swing" a Navy fuel purchasing decision "our way," the plea deal says. Sanchez's response: "ask and you shall receive... we worked this out this morning." That same month, a Navy ship purchased fuel from GDMA during a Thailand port visit.

In May 2012, Francis paid for Sanchez's five-night stay at the Shangri-La, a luxury hotel in Singapore, the plea agreement states. Two months later, Francis footed the bill for Sanchez's travel from Asia to the U.S. --  a cost of over $7,500.

Investigators estimate Sanchez received items worth at least $30,000 — but no more than $120,000 — from his relationship with Francis and GDMA. Prosecutors claim Francis overcharged the Navy for more than $20 million in services.

Francis has denied wrongdoing in the case. He's in federal custody awaiting trial.

Sanchez was arrested in November 2013, one of seven defendants in the investigation and the highest-ranking official to accept a plea agreement. He will be sentenced on March 27.

U.S. Navy Petty Officer First Class Dan Layug admitted to accepting $10,000 in cash, travel and a "bucket list" of video games and gadgets from a foreign defense contractor in exchange for providing classified information.  

Edmond A. Aruffo, retired Lt. Commander, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge. He was Operations Officer on USS Blue Ridge. The 20-year military veteran said he used kickbacks from GDMA to take Navy officials on lavish dinners.

Senior U.S. Navy criminal investigator John Beliveau II pleaded guilty to bribery charges.

Leonard Francis’ cousin, Alex Wisidagama, was a company manager. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government.

Also charged in the investigation is Commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz.

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