The Big Read: The man who seduced the 7th fleet - Sting reveals trail of corruption

By Craig Whitlock

He tempted his targets with the high life: whiskey, cigars, prostitutes and cash.

His moles fed him bundles of military secrets and law enforcement files.

All so he could rip off the Navy on an industrial scale for years and years.

Now, the depth of the corruption is being exposed as the investigation reaches into the highest ranks of the U.S. Navy.
Leonard Glenn Francis, aka Fat Leonard pleaded guilty in January in U.S. federal court to bribing "scores" of Navy officials in exchange for sensitive information. Photo / The Washington Post
Leonard Glenn Francis, aka Fat Leonard pleaded guilty in January in U.S. federal court to bribing "scores" of Navy officials in exchange for sensitive information. Photo / The Washington Post

For months, a small team of U.S. Navy investigators and federal prosecutors secretly devised options for a high-stakes international manhunt. Could the target be snatched from his home base in Asia and rendered to the United States? Or held captive aboard an American warship?

Making the challenge even tougher was the fact that the man was a master of espionage. His moles had burrowed deep into the Navy hierarchy to leak him a stream of military secrets, thwarting previous efforts to bring him to justice.

The target was not a terrorist, nor a spy for a foreign power, nor the kingpin of a drug cartel. But rather a 350-pound defense contractor nicknamed Fat Leonard, who had befriended a generation of Navy leaders with cigars and liquor whenever they made port calls in Asia.

Leonard Glenn Francis was legendary on the high seas for his charm and his appetite for excess.

For years, the Singapore-based businessman had showered Navy officers with gifts, epicurean dinners, prostitutes and, if necessary, cash bribes so they would look the other way while he swindled the Navy to refuel and resupply its ships.

In the end, federal agents settled on a risky sting operation to try to nab Fat Leonard. They would lure him to California, dangling a meeting with admirals who hinted they had lucrative contracts to offer.

He took the bait. On Sept. 16, 2013, Francis was arrested in his hotel suite overlooking San Diego's harbor. It was the opening strike in a sweep covering three states and seven countries, as hundreds of law enforcement agents arrested other suspects and seized incriminating files from Francis's business empire.

A 51-year-old Malaysian citizen, Francis has since pleaded guilty to fraud and bribery charges. His firm, Glenn Defense Marine Asia, is financially ruined.

But his arrest exposed something else that is still emerging three years later: a staggering degree of corruption within the Navy itself.

Much more than a contracting scandal, the investigation has revealed how Francis seduced the Navy's storied 7th Fleet, long a proving ground for admirals given its strategic role in patrolling the Pacific and Indian oceans.

In perhaps the worst national-security breach of its kind to hit the Navy since the end of the Cold War, Francis doled out sex and money to a shocking number of people in uniform who fed him classified material about U.S. warship and submarine movements. Some also leaked him confidential contracting information and even files about active law enforcement investigations into his company.

He exploited the intelligence for illicit profit, brazenly ordering his moles to redirect aircraft carriers to ports he controlled in Southeast Asia so he could more easily bilk the Navy for fuel, tugboats, barges, food, water and sewage removal.

Over at least a decade, according to documents filed by prosecutors, Glenn Defense ripped off the Navy with little fear of getting caught because Francis had so thoroughly infiltrated the ranks.

The company forged invoices, falsified quotes and ran kickback schemes. It created ghost subcontractors and fake port authorities to fool the Navy into paying for services it never received.

Francis and his firm have admitted to defrauding the Navy of $35 million, though investigators believe the real amount could be much greater.

"I ask, when has something like this, bribery of this magnitude, ever happened in this district or in our country's history?" Robert Huie, an assistant U.S. attorney in San Diego, said during a court hearing last year. "Mr. Francis's conduct has passed from being merely exceptional to being the stuff of history and legend."

Today, the Navy remains in the grip of overlapping civilian and military investigations that are slowly unraveling long skeins of misconduct.

So far, four Navy officers, an enlisted sailor and a senior agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) have pleaded guilty to federal crimes and are already behind bars or are facing prison time. So have Francis and two other Glenn Defense executives.

Charges are pending against two former Navy contracting officials. Many others remain under investigation.

Exactly how many is a mystery. When he pleaded guilty, Francis admitted to bribing "scores" of Navy officials with cash, sex and gifts worth millions of dollars - all so he could win more defense contracts and overcharge with impunity.

A federal prosecutor hinted at the extent of the case last year when he said in court that more than 200 "subjects" were under investigation.

A striking portion of the Navy's senior brass could be tarnished. In December, Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, summoned about 200 admirals to a special gathering in Washington.

Without naming names, he revealed that about 30 of them were under criminal investigation by the Justice Department or ethical scrutiny by the Navy for their connections to Francis, according to two senior Navy officials with direct knowledge of the meeting.

The damage to the Navy could match the toll from the Tailhook scandal of the early 1990s, when 14 admirals were reprimanded or forced to resign over an epic outbreak of sexual assault at a naval aviators' convention.

Because almost all of the 11 defendants charged in the Fat Leonard case have pleaded guilty, and no trials have taken place, only a small fraction of the evidence has been made public so far.

This account of how Francis corrupted the Navy is based on interviews with more than two dozen current and former Navy officials, as well as hundreds of pages of court filings, contracting records and military documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Ethan Posner, an attorney for Francis, declined to comment. The Navy declined interview requests and referred questions to the Justice Department.

Laura Duffy, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California whose office is leading the investigation, declined to answer questions. "The investigation continues apace, uncovering substantial wrongdoing," she said in a brief statement.

The investigation has mushroomed partly because Glenn Defense was a pillar of U.S. maritime operations for a quarter-century.The 7th Fleet depended on the firm more than any other to refuel and resupply its vessels.

Over time, Francis became so skilled at cultivating Navy informants that it was a challenge to juggle them all. On a near-daily basis, they pelted him with demands for money, prostitutes, hotel rooms and plane tickets.

"The Soviets couldn't have penetrated us better than Leonard Francis," said a retired Navy officer who worked closely with Francis and spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid reprisal. "He's got people skills that are off the scale. He can hook you so fast that you don't see it coming. . . . At one time he had infiltrated the entire leadership line. The KGB could not have done what he did."

Living large

Leonard Francis grew up in a prosperous family in Penang, Malaysia, enriched by the maritime logistics firm his maternal grandfather had started in 1946 along the Strait of Malacca, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

Although Francis came from wealth and was tutored in private schools, he bore scars from a dysfunctional childhood.

His mother had split from his philandering father. She took her daughter and another son with her, leaving Leonard behind "with the bizarre task of keeping an eye on his father to ensure that he did not bring other women home," according to a summary of Malaysian court records published in a national law journal.

In 1986, a 21-year-old Francis got into serious legal trouble. He opened a pub that was "frequented by undesirable characters" in Penang and was arrested after police found two Smith & Wesson revolvers, 14 rounds of ammunition and a bulletproof vest in his bedroom, according to the court records. He pleaded guilty.

Under Malaysia's strict gun laws, he was supposed to receive a mandatory whipping and a prison sentence. The trial judge imposed a $5,800 fine but spared him the whipping and incarceration, citing a psychiatrist's testimony that he was obese, emotionally fragile and suffering from a blood disorder. His estranged parents jointly paid the fine.

Apparently angry at the light sentence, however, police rearrested Francis as he was leaving the courthouse and charged him with committing a string of robberies, a Malaysian newspaper reported at the time.

The robbery charges were dropped. But after an appeal by prosecutors, a court stiffened Francis's sentence for the gun crimes, ordering him to spend 18 months behind bars and submit to six strokes of the lash.

After absorbing his punishment, Francis devoted himself to the family business. There was money to be made working for the U.S. military, especially after the Navy was forced to shutter its giant Subic Bay base in the Philippines in 1992 and stepped up port visits elsewhere.

Lacking knowledge to navigate the byzantine world of U.S. defense contracts, Francis hired people who did: several former Navy officers, as well as retired brass from the Malaysian, Thai and Philippine navies.

Francis soaked up military culture from the veterans on his payroll. He learned Navy lingo and wore neckties emblazoned with the American flag. His cellphone played country singer Lee Greenwood's rendition of "God Bless the U.S.A."

He moved his headquarters to Singapore and opened branches all over Asia. By the early 2000s, he had secured contracts to service U.S. Navy ships in ports from Vladivostok, Russia, to Papua New Guinea. He also won business from the navies of Britain, France, Mexico, India and the Netherlands.

At its height, Glenn Defense and its subsidiaries boasted a fleet of more than 50 vessels. Most were tugs and barges, but the firm also advertised the services of a patrol ship with armed guards - British-trained Gurkha soldiers from Nepal - to fend off pirates.

After he moved to Singapore, Francis projected the image of a wildly successful tycoon. As he rode around the city, bystanders would gawk at his black, armored SUV with the puncture-resistant tires.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, hundreds of people would pass by his 70,000-square-foot estate, marveling at the spectacular holiday-light extravaganza his staff erected each year.

A Singapore newspaper estimated that he spent $75,000 on the light show, with its life-size reindeer, giant snowmen, 35-foot-tall Christmas tree and a Nativity scene. A Roman Catholic, Francis encouraged the publicity but politely declined to say how much the decorations cost.

"You can't put a value on happiness," he told the Straits Times of Singapore.

'Top-notch hospitality'

Adm. Robert Willard with Leonard Glenn Francis. Photo / The Washington Post
Adm. Robert Willard with Leonard Glenn Francis. Photo / The Washington Post

In his dealings with the Americans, Francis went to great lengths to ingratiate himself with senior officers, recognizing that they often cared more about high-quality service than how the bill would be paid.

Whenever a Navy vessel arrived in port, the odds were high that Francis would be waiting at the pier. Like a five-star concierge, he would arrange for shopping trips, sightseeing tours and concert tickets. A limousine and driver would be reserved for the ship's commander.

Select sailors would be invited to an extravagant banquet, featuring cognac and whiskey, Cohiba cigars from Cuba, and platters of Spanish suckling pig and Kobe beef. Francis would sometimes fly in a band of pole dancers, which he called his Elite Thai SEAL Team, for X-rated shows, court records show.

In another display of panache, he purchased an aging, decommissioned British warship, the RFA Sir Lancelot. He refurbished and renamed it the Glenn Braveheart.

The vessel became the flagship of his fleet, and it would often deploy alongside the USS Blue Ridge, the 7th Fleet's flagship. When in port, Francis would sometimes turn the Braveheart into a giant party boat, with prostitutes in the wardroom to entertain U.S. officers, according to court records and interviews.

Even when he didn't offer anything illicit, Francis earned a reputation as a reliable and responsive businessman who was eager to help the Navy in unfamiliar locales.

Soon enough, senior officers were dashing off ebullient thank-you notes known as Bravo Zulus, a Navy term meaning "well done."

A 2006 laudatory ''Bravo Zulu'' note from then-Vice Adm. Jonathan Greenert to Leonard "Fat Leonard" Glenn Francis. Photo / The Washington Post
A 2006 laudatory ''Bravo Zulu'' note from then-Vice Adm. Jonathan Greenert to Leonard "Fat Leonard" Glenn Francis. Photo / The Washington Post

• "Many of crew are still talking about the great adventures they experienced," then-Capt. John J. Donnelly, then 7th Fleet chief of staff, said in a March 10, 2000, letter. He lauded Francis's "warm hospitality," calling it "truly remarkable" and that it "will long be remembered by all of us." Donnelly would become a three-star admiral and commander of all U.S. submarine forces.

Now retired, Donnelly said he had no memory of ever meeting Francis and that the letter was "a pro forma thank you note" generated by his staff. "I probably signed hundreds of similar letters during my two years in that job," he added.

• "Dear Leonard," wrote then-Vice Adm. Robert Willard, then the 7th Fleet commander, on June 3, 2003. "Thank you for the top-notch hospitality. Your timely efforts and service will remain unparalleled." Willard would become a four-star admiral and commander of all U.S. military forces in the Pacific. Now retired, he declined to comment.

• "Thank you for the superb services," gushed then-Vice Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the next commander of the 7th Fleet, on March 9, 2006. "Over the years, the reputation of Glenn Marine remains exceptional. . . . Keep up the great work. I wish you and your staff the very best and continued success!" Greenert would become chief of naval operations, the top job in the Navy. He retired last year and declined to comment.

Leonard Glenn Francis with Adm. Samuel Locklear. Photo / The Washington Post
Leonard Glenn Francis with Adm. Samuel Locklear. Photo / The Washington Post

Francis treated the Bravo Zulu notes as celebrity endorsements, highlighting them in company brochures.

To further advertise his access to the highest levels of command, he published an array of grip-and-grin photographs featuring him alongside the Navy's top admirals in their dress-white uniforms.

One brochure, published in 2008, shows Francis, smiling, in a collage of photos with Greenert and Willard and Adm. Sam Locklear, who later became commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific.

And with Adm. Mike Mullen, a chief of naval operations who became chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And with Adm. Gary Roughead, another chief of naval operations.

All have since retired. Locklear and Roughead declined to comment.

Sally Donnelly, an adviser to Mullen, issued a statement on his behalf saying that he appeared in thousands of informal photographs a year with people, many of whom he did not know.

"Admiral Mullen had no - and has no - personal or professional connection to the individual in this photograph, nor has anyone even suggested that he is in any way party to the activities for which this individual is being investigated," she said.

Another retired admiral, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigations, recalled how he once attended an officers' dinner with Francis. He said he complimented the contractor on his fashionable, bespoke suit and his "blowtorch of a cigar lighter."

The next morning, as the admiral's ship was preparing to leave port, Francis arrived at the pier bearing gifts: a $700 cigar lighter like the one he showed off the night before; two pewter platters worth about $500 apiece; a pack of 25 Cuban Cohiba cigars; and a business card for his bespoke tailor.

The admiral said he declined the presents. "There's no question in my mind that he tried to influence me," he said. "It's like fishing. He's got the hook. If he got an inch, he'd go for a foot. If he'd get a foot, he'd go for a yard."

Glenn Defense also would dispense its largesse under the guise of charity. The firm became a leading sponsor of the Navy League of the United States, a civilian nonprofit group that advocates on behalf of the Navy.

At one military ball organized by the league's Singapore chapter, Glenn Defense donated the top door prize: a pair of his and hers gold Rolex watches, valued at $30,000, according to two individuals who were present.

'Everyone knew'

Adm. Mike Mullen with Leonard Glenn Francis. Francis, aka Fat Leonard.
Adm. Mike Mullen with Leonard Glenn Francis. Francis, aka Fat Leonard.

Francis didn't hesitate to exploit his connections, especially when lower-ranking officers challenged his exorbitant bills, according to several current and former Navy officers and court documents.

David Schaus, a junior officer assigned to the Navy's Ship Support Office in Hong Kong, became livid after receiving a huge invoice from Glenn Defense in 2004. Schaus said it charged the Navy for pumping 100,000 gallons of sewage from a destroyer that spent four days in port - an impossible amount, because the ship's tanks held just 12,000 gallons and were serviced only once a day.

Schaus told The Post that he summoned Francis for an explanation. "He became furious, accusing me of calling him a liar. And I told him, 'I am calling you a liar.' He said, 'Lieutenants don't tell me what to do. Do you know who I am?' He was being profane and banging on the table."

Afterward, Schaus said he was told by other Navy officials to back off, something that he said invariably happened when he raised questions about Glenn Defense.

The company "was rotten from the first day I worked with them in 2004, and everyone knew they were rotten," Schaus said. "Everyone knew what was going on, and it was just accepted as the way it was. If you tried to rock the boat, you got squashed."

Later that year, on Christmas Eve, the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and three other warships arrived in Hong Kong.

Francis threw a Christmas party for the visiting officers at the Island Shangri-La, a five-star hotel. They were treated to filet mignon, lobster and Dom Pérignon champagne, and they mingled with female escorts dressed as Santa's little helpers, according to Schaus and a second officer who was present in port.

A handful of senior officers were invited to an after-party with the escorts, whom Francis had dubbed the "Santa Niñas," or Santa's girls, according to a third individual who was present.

The next day, Francis boarded one of the warships and delivered a $600,000 sewage bill, according to the second officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he remains on active duty and wasn't authorized to speak to a reporter.

"He came into my office with a big grin wanting to be paid," the officer said. The officer protested and brought up the lavish party from the night before. "I came right out and told Francis that we were paying for it with this bill."

The officer said he lost the argument, and Francis got what he wanted.

'Endemic corruption'

In Hong Kong harbor, the guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur rests at anchor during a three-day port call in December 2004. Photo / The Washington Post
In Hong Kong harbor, the guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur rests at anchor during a three-day port call in December 2004. Photo / The Washington Post

Eighteen months later, the cycle repeated itself when another aircraft carrier visited Hong Kong.

Rear Adm. Michael H. Miller, commander of the USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group, knew Francis well. In early 2006, he emailed the contractor to say he'd be coming to Asia soon, that he looked forward to renewing their friendship and could use some shopping advice, according to Navy documents obtained under FOIA.

The Reagan and three other ships in the strike group docked in Hong Kong on June 10. The next day, at Miller's request, Francis arranged a splendid banquet for officers at the Island Shangri-La, this time at Petrus, a swanky French restaurant with views of Victoria Harbor.

Miller and his officers were accustomed to eating well with Francis. One week earlier, when the strike group had visited Malaysia, Francis took them to the Chalet Suisse restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. Before that, in Singapore, he arranged for dinner at Jaan, ranked as one of Asia's 50 best restaurants.

To comply with ethics rules, Miller and two other senior officers wrote personal checks to reimburse Francis. They estimated the fair market value at between $50 and $70 per meal.

In fact, the dinners actually cost more than 10 times that much: about $750 per person, according to the findings of a Navy disciplinary investigation that was completed last year.

After the meals, Miller and other officers showered Francis with Bravo Zulu messages.

"Words cannot adequately express my appreciation for the service you have provided in all our ports of call," Miller wrote to Francis two days after he left Hong Kong. "You are as much a member of the U.S. Navy team as any of us, and we are all proud to call you 'Shipmate.' "

The Navy investigation found Miller's note amounted to an official endorsement of Glenn Defense, a violation of ethics rules. He was formally censured by the Navy last year and retired soon after. He declined to comment.

Other officers colluded with Francis "to conceal the true nature" of the Hong Kong officers' banquet from the Navy's Ship Support Office, which was still tangling with Francis over his invoices, the investigation found.

Schaus, the ship support officer, said he suspected at the time that Glenn Defense was overcharging the Navy for the Reagan's visit. He alerted NCIS and asked for a criminal inquiry.

An NCIS agent assigned to the Reagan interviewed him, he said. But the case went nowhere and only provoked a backlash. "Everybody on the ship hated me," Schaus said. Navy officials declined to comment.

He resigned his Navy commission a few months later. He said he left for many reasons but that "the endemic corruption I observed during my short tenure of working within the supply world was certainly a major factor."

On Francis's payroll

Around the same time, Francis planted a couple of moles in the Navy's regional contracting office in Singapore.

Starting in 2006, Sharon Gursharan Kaur, a Singapore national who worked for the Navy, leaked confidential contract information to Francis for about $100,000 in cash and luxury vacations in Bali and Dubai, according to the Singapore Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau.

Kaur has been charged with corruption and money-laundering offenses in Singapore. Her case is pending. Her attorney did not respond to emails seeking comment.

Also in 2006, Francis began a relationship with Paul Simpkins, an American civilian who worked in Singapore as a Navy contract supervisor.

Over the course of several surreptitious meetings in a Singapore hotel bar, Francis offered Simpkins $50,000 to rig the bidding for Navy contracts in Thailand and the Philippines, according to a federal indictment of Simpkins.

Prosecutors allege Simpkins demanded more and ultimately received $450,000 in cash and payments wired to foreign bank accounts controlled by his wife.

In addition to allegedly rigging the Navy contracts for Francis, Simpkins served as a secret fixer in other matters for Glenn Defense, according to the indictment.

For example, when a Navy official in Singapore flagged questionable bills from the company related to a port visit by the USS Decatur, a guided-missile destroyer, Simpkins nipped the inquiry in the bud, prosecutors said.

"Do not request any invoices from this ship," Simpkins ordered his colleague in an email, according to court records. "Do not violate this instruction. Contact the ship and rescind your request."

Prosecutors also allege that in 2007, Simpkins ordered the Navy's Hong Kong office to stop using flow meters to measure the amount of sewage that Glenn Defense pumped from ships, making it easier for the firm to gouge the Navy for the service.

Simpkins left the Singapore office that year to become a senior contracting executive for the Justice Department and later for the Defense Department. Prosecutors have accused him of maintaining a relationship with Francis while he worked in Washington.

During a return trip to Singapore for vacation, Simpkins asked Francis to arrange for some prostitutes, court records show.

"Can u set up some clean, disease free wome[n]when I am there?" Simpkins emailed. A few days later, he added: "Whats the plan to meet up and maybe do some honeys?"

"Honeys and bunnys," Francis replied, confirming the date.

Simpkins has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial. His attorney did not respond to requests for comment.

'A snake charmer'

U.S. Navy Capt. Daniel Dusek, center, handed over classified ship schedules and steered aircraft carriers to "fat revenue ports" controlled by Glenn Defense. Photo / The Washington Post
U.S. Navy Capt. Daniel Dusek, center, handed over classified ship schedules and steered aircraft carriers to "fat revenue ports" controlled by Glenn Defense. Photo / The Washington Post

Francis's most audacious achievement was his penetration of 7th Fleet headquarters in Japan. Four officers and an enlisted sailor who worked there have pleaded guilty to taking bribes.

In each case, court records show, Francis or his executives carefully groomed their targets, befriending them while searching for weak points: money or marital problems, alcohol, loneliness, lust, low self-esteem.

Lt. Cmdr. Todd Malaki, a logistics planner for the 7th Fleet, said he was introduced by his commander to Francis in 2004 at one of the contractor's famous parties.

"He was charming, personable and incredibly influential," Malaki recalled in a confessional letter to a federal judge. "As we drank together, he convinced me into believing that we were friends and he was a mentor. I'm ashamed to admit that I wanted to believe we were equals."

Before long, Malaki was handing over classified ship schedules and proprietary information about Glenn Defense's competitors. In turn, Francis gave him about $3,000 in cash, paid for him to stay in hotels around Asia and provided him with a prostitute after a night at a Malaysian karaoke club.

"There is no excuse for what I did, but I fell under the charm of Mr. Francis," Malaki wrote. "I suspect that he sensed the weakness of my character. He was like a snake charmer, preying on my flaws and manipulating me to serve or advance his interests."

Malaki was sentenced in January to a 40-month prison term.

In 2010, Glenn Defense executives hooked Dan Layug, a petty officer who worked in logistics for 7th Fleet, initially by bribing him with a free cellphone, court records show.

Over the next three years, as Layug leaked competitors' secrets and classified ship schedules to the firm, it rewarded him with more electronic gadgets, including video-game consoles, cameras and tablet computers. The company also provided free hotel rooms in ports across Asia to him and his friends.

Eventually, Layug worked his way up to an allowance of $1,000 a month. According to prosecutors, he'd drive to the Glenn Defense offices in Japan, roll down his window in the parking lot and exchange classified material for a cash-filled envelope.

"I let my ego and my greed take over me and ended up betraying my country," Layug said at a January court hearing in San Diego. He was sentenced to 27 months in prison.

Capt. Daniel Dusek, who served as deputy director of operations for the 7th Fleet, said in court papers that a mentor introduced Francis to him in 2010 as "a great friend of the Navy."

At the time, Dusek said he was feeling vulnerable because he was overworked, prone to heavy drinking and depressed by "the tortuous ending of my second marriage."

Within months, Glenn Defense began supplying him with prostitutes, alcohol and stays at luxury hotels. In turn, Dusek handed over classified ship schedules and steered aircraft carriers to "fat revenue ports" controlled by Glenn Defense. He became such a valuable agent that Francis labeled him "a golden asset."

In a court memo, Dusek confessed to his crimes but suggested that the corruption was widespread. He blamed an "endemic culture within the Navy in Asia" and charged that Francis "was able to leverage his way to the top in plain view of generations of senior Naval Officers and Admirals."

Dusek was sentenced in March to 46 months in prison. He declined to comment for this article.

The sex factor

Perhaps the most effective bribe Francis offered was sex.

He was choosy about his prostitutes and worked with trusted escort agencies in several countries. He kept meticulous notes about the physical desires of Navy officials, such as who liked Thai girls, or group sex.

Sometimes, he would debrief the hookers afterward, looking for scraps of information he could exploit, according to court records and an individual familiar with his methods.

Once, he personally videotaped a Navy officer having sex with twin Vietnamese prostitutes in a hotel room in Singapore, according to two people familiar with the incident.

In another case, Francis went to unusual lengths to cater to Cmdr. Jose L. Sanchez, a married logistics officer at 7th Fleet headquarters who became one of his most valuable moles starting in 2009.

According to an affidavit filed by federal agents, Francis once asked an Indonesian madam to send four prostitutes to Singapore to spend four days with Sanchez and three other Navy officers.

Although that port visit was canceled at the last minute, on other occasions Francis hired prostitutes to spend time with Sanchez and friends in his "wolf pack" in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, a second affidavit shows.

Another time, Francis messaged a prostitute with a last-minute request to see Sanchez in the Philippines. "Hey Love Jose is in Manila at the Diamond Hotel go and see him he needs some love asap."

"Papi, I'm here," the prostitute replied. "Jose's fone is not answering. I'm here having drinks at the lobby. Call him :( maybe his sleeping?" Later, she emailed Francis with an update. "I'm with him already heehehe."

Sanchez has pleaded guilty to accepting as much as $120,000 in cash, travel and sex with prostitutes. Prosecutors say he regularly leaked classified ship and submarine schedules to Francis and tipped him off whenever Glenn Defense came under suspicion for defrauding the Navy.

He is awaiting sentencing. His attorney, Vincent Ward, declined to comment.

Francis the untouchable

In 2010, Glenn Defense executives began targeting Cmdr. Michael Misiewicz, another married officer who was moving to 7th Fleet headquarters.

Edmond Aruffo, a retired Navy officer who headed Glenn Defense's operations in Japan, took Misiewicz out to dinner. Then he paid for the commander and his family to attend a production of "The Lion King" in Tokyo.

"We gotta get him hooked on something," Francis told Aruffo in an email entered into court records.

Within weeks, Aruffo discovered that Misiewicz had a fondness for Japanese prostitutes, liked fancy hotels and needed to pay for international travel for his extended family. The contractor obliged repeatedly on all counts, and soon Misiewicz was funneling classified material to the company.

"We got him!!:)" Aruffo emailed Francis.

"You bet the Godfather," Fat Leonard replied.

"All hail!!!" cheered Aruffo, who has since pleaded guilty to bribery and is awaiting sentencing. His attorneys did not respond to requests for comment.

Misiewicz and Francis emailed, phoned and texted each other thousands of times, according to prosecutors. In a court filing, they said the officer became Francis's "trained bulldog" in 7th Fleet headquarters and fed him highly sensitive military secrets, including information about ballistic missile defense operations in the Pacific.

In a letter to the judge in his case, Misiewicz blamed his behavior on marital troubles and personal insecurities. He said Francis mentored him and acted like a big brother.

"He made me feel special," Misiewicz wrote. "I needed that given the personal isolation I was experiencing in my marriage.

Misiewicz was sentenced in April to 61/2 years in prison.

Navy Cmdr. Michael Misiewicz, center, lies flat on his back in a boxing ring during 'Fight Night' at a Manila nightclub. He said Francis mentored him and acted like a big brother. Photo / Supplied
Navy Cmdr. Michael Misiewicz, center, lies flat on his back in a boxing ring during 'Fight Night' at a Manila nightclub. He said Francis mentored him and acted like a big brother. Photo / Supplied

In 2010, Glenn Defense's fraudulent tactics finally began to draw serious attention from the Navy. NCIS opened two separate criminal investigations into the company for its billing practices in Thailand and Japan.

But Francis had another ace in the hole: a turncoat law enforcement agent.

John Beliveau II, an NCIS agent based in Singapore and later at Quantico, Va., had known Francis for at least two years. In exchange for prostitutes, cash and other favors, he tapped into an NCIS database as the cases unfolded and fed Francis raw material from investigators' notes and interviews.

According to prosecutors, the information enabled Francis to cover his tracks and intimidate witnesses. His NCIS spy proved so reliable and so valuable that Francis became giddy.

"I have inside Intel from NCIS and read all the reports," Francis boasted in a 2011 email to another one of his moles. "I will show you a copy of a Classified Command File on me from NCIS ha ha."

Francis's intelligence machine worked so well that Navy personnel in Singapore suspected their offices had been bugged; some even thought they were under surveillance by private detectives.

There were other reasons for Francis to feel untouchable.

Despite the ongoing NCIS investigations, in June 2011 the Navy awarded Glenn Defense three major contracts, worth up to $200 million, to service ships in Southeast Asia, East Asia, Australia and the Pacific Isles.

Top Navy brass seemed as pleased as ever with Francis. They extended invitations for him to attend military change-of-command ceremonies alongside Navy VIPs, diplomats, and relatives and close friends of the commanders.

In September 2011, he boarded the USS Blue Ridge, the 7th Fleet flagship, to watch Vice Adm. Scott Swift take charge from Vice Adm. Scott Van Buskirk, according to documents obtained by The Post under FOIA.

Vice Adm. Scott Buskirk with Leonard Glenn Francis. Photo / The Washington Post
Vice Adm. Scott Buskirk with Leonard Glenn Francis. Photo / The Washington Post

Six months later, he traveled to Hawaii for another ceremony in which Adm. Locklear took command of all U.S. military forces in the Pacific from Adm. Willard, the documents show. A seat was reserved for Francis near the front.

Even when his luck turned bad, Francis always seemed to navigate back out of trouble.

In October 2012, Philippine authorities caught one of his ships, the Glenn Guardian, illegally dumping about 200,000 liters of wastewater near Subic Bay. The wastewater had been collected from the USS Emory S. Land, a submarine tender, during a port visit.

An investigation by the Philippine Senate found that Glenn Defense had been dumping millions of liters of wastewater from U.S. Navy ships for years without proper permits.

Company executives argued that as a U.S. defense contractor the firm was protected from liability under terms of a U.S.-Philippines defense treaty. Despite a public outcry, the company was not penalized or fined in the end.

The trap is sprung

In the end, Francis's overconfidence led to his downfall.

Navy officials eventually realized that Francis had infiltrated NCIS. Cybersecurity teams discovered that Beliveau had been downloading hundreds of files about Francis from the law enforcement database, even though the NCIS agent wasn't assigned to the case.

In July 2013, they planted false information in the database, stating that all investigations against Glenn Defense had been closed and no charges would be filed.

Two months later, thinking he was in the clear, Francis flew to San Diego to attend another change-of-command ceremony and to drum up business from the Navy's Global Logistics Support Command.

Instead, he fell into the Navy's trap. After giving a PowerPoint briefing to two admirals about ways that he said Glenn Defense could save the Navy money, he returned to his hotel and was arrested.

Beliveau was arrested the same day in Washington. He has pleaded guilty to bribery charges and is awaiting sentencing.

Beliveau's attorney, Jessica Carmichael of Alexandria, Virginia, said he "fell under Francis's spell" and "will forever regret his conduct."

"The range and number of high-level officials involved shows the influential and manipulative nature of Leonard Francis," she added. "He was clearly a dynamic personality who could con so many senior officials into his far-reaching scheme."

Francis has been locked up in San Diego since his 2013 arrest. He is awaiting sentencing and faces a maximum of 20 years in prison. When he pleaded guilty last year, court papers show he promised to cooperate in a bid for leniency.

Although the Justice Department has repeatedly suggested that more arrests are forthcoming, it has been more than 15 months since any new defendants have been charged.

Authorities have identified only a few of the 30 admirals under investigation.

The Navy announced in November 2013 that two admirals in charge of the service's secrets - Vice Adm. Ted "Twig" Branch, the director of naval intelligence, and a deputy, Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless - were under criminal investigation by the Justice Department.

Since then, the two officers have been mired in limbo, neither charged nor cleared. Navy and Justice officials have disclosed no other details. Branch and Loveless declined to comment.

In a previously undisclosed case, NCIS agents are also investigating Rear Adm. Robert Gilbeau, a supply and logistics officer, according to a senior Navy official and two people who have been questioned.

Gilbeau came to know Francis during several deployments to Asia and is also under scrutiny for his relationships with contractors when he served in Afghanistan in 2012 and 2013, according to the people questioned in the case.

Reached by phone, Gilbeau confirmed he was under investigation but declined to comment further.

The open-ended nature of the investigation, with so many officers under scrutiny, has hampered the Navy's ability to fill command jobs and move forward with promotions.

It has also led to grumbling that many officers have been forced to work under a cloud of suspicion for years, without facing charges, unable to clear their names.

"I'm not the guy to sweep this under the rug. In my view, there was a problem," said Peter H. Daly, a retired vice admiral who serves as chief executive of the U.S. Naval Institute, a nonprofit military association in Annapolis, Maryland. "But to let this thing drag out is wrong. It's just bad, bad, bad. It shouldn't be this way. It's not fair."

Prosecutors have said it has taken so long to get to the bottom of the scandal because there is a mountain of evidence to mine.

Investigators said they have amassed 18 terabytes of data from more than 100 email and Facebook accounts, as well as dozens of computer hard drives, tablets and smartphones. Nine federal agents were assigned just to organize and upload the materials.

The evidence remains under a protective order to prevent it from being made public. But, occasionally, new details emerge that illustrate the scope of Francis's penetration of the Navy.

Last month, for instance, lawyers for Misiewicz, one of the officers who has pleaded guilty, filed a court document stating that Francis had gone so far as to bribe Navy public-affairs specialists "to advise and train him on the Navy's strategic talking points."

The document gave no other details. But a person close to the investigation said the public-affairs officers worked for the Hawaii-based U.S. Pacific Fleet and that Francis bribed them with a combination of cash, dinners and prostitutes.

- Washington Post

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