Navy officer pleads guilty in growing bribery case

SAN DIEGO (AP) " A Navy lieutenant commander on Thursday admitted to providing inside information to a Malaysian defense contractor nicknamed "Fat Leonard" whose ship supply company overbilled the maritime branch by at least $35 million in a mushrooming case involving nearly a dozen Navy officers so far, many of whom were bought off with prostitutes.

Supply and logistic officer Lt. Cmdr. Gentry Debord pleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy to commit bribery Thursday in federal court in San Diego.

His attorney Robert Schlein said his client has accepted responsibility for his actions and Schlein found him to be a "very open, honest and professional guy" in the seven months they worked together. He added that most of the offenses were committed when Debord was a junior officer.

"It's a complex set of facts in this case," Schlein said. "It involves a variety of people and he would be someone on the lesser end of that involvement."

Prosecutors say Debord regularly requested Glenn Defense Marine Asia executives to arrange prostitutes for him during port visits in Asia in exchange for helping the company.

GDMA officials described Debord in emails as "sex crazed" and said he swallowed the bribes, "hook, line and sinker," according to instant messages quoted in the plea agreement.

"This conduct is a disgrace to the U.S. Navy and an affront to U.S. taxpayers who were left to foot the bill for parties and prostitutes," said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy.

The company's CEO, Leonard Francis, is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to bribing Navy officials with more than $500,000 in cash, prostitutes, luxury hotel stays and a staggering amount of others gifts in exchange for classified information.

Among the 16 defendants are 11 current or former U.S. Navy officials.

From November 2007 to January 2013, Debord provided Francis and others with inside Navy information and directed Francis and GDMA to inflate invoices to cover the bribes he was receiving. He also pushed the Navy to buy items from GDMA, including in 2008 when he convinced the Navy to not use the food and provisions it owned.

The judge agreed to allow Debord to live with his family in Ohio until his sentencing hearing, which is set for January.

A former agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, John Beliveau II, is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday. Prosecutors say he tipped off Francis to the investigation.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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