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Hookers and Seamen: The US Navy’s “Fat Leonard” trial heads to jury in San Diego

Brian “BK” Kimber

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Not since the Navy’s infamous Tailhook debauchery in the early 1990s has a nightmare like the Fat Leonard” bribery scandal been this much of a pain in the ass for the United States military. Now well into its second decade, the Navy’s longest-running scandal has had far-reaching implications for the service, affected hundreds of personnel, and been a constant headache in the their efforts to stamp out corruption in the officer corps, particularly among the often-murky world of overseas contracts and favoritism. Now, in a long-awaited trial, the last five Navy officers charged in the case have made their arguments in Federal court in San Diego, and it’s already produced some fantastic revelations. Both sides have presented their cases, and the trial has now gone to the jury. Just in case you might be under the age of twenty and have never heard of this global clusterfuck, let’s take a look at some background. 

Who is Fat Leonard? And what did he do?

Malaysian national Leonard Glenn Francis, aka “Fat Leonard,” was the chief executive, president, and chairman of the Thai ship contractor Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA,) itself a subsidiary of the parent company Glenn Marine Group, a Singapore-based maritime service company. GDMA provided naval logistics and port services throughout Southeast Asia, including port access operations, resupply, fuel, cruise terminal operations, and more. Through his many connections, Leonard would supply the US Navy with the critical and often-complex logistics and infrastructure that they depended on to maintain operations in the area. To ensure that the Navy would continue to use ports under his control, Leonard bribed a large number of uniformed naval officials with over half a million in cash, travel expenses, luxury gifts, and yes, prostitutes. And I mean PROSTITUTES. Francis kept copious notes on which officers preferred what: Vietnamese twins, group sex, BDSM sadists, and anything else the depraved military mind could come up with. Once there was a multi-day sex party at a Manila penthouse where the officers got a rotation of hookers streaming in and out; it was a carnal carnival of carnivorous copulation. One can only imagine the fluids splashed about the room; hopefully, the cleaning ladies were suitably encased in their PPE gear.

And of course, the morons allowed themselves to be photographed with all the incriminating evidence going right to Francis. Now, men behaving questionably on deployment is hardly a new phenomenon. There are certain things that are absolute in life: Death, taxes, and military/government employees procuring the services of “massages” while overseas. But even junior enlisted E-4s in the military usually know enough to not allow themselves to be photographed balls-deep in a hooker while wearing a gimp mask, which makes them about a hundred times more intelligent than these naval officers.. But I digress. 

His investments in place, Leonard would receive from these officers classified information about the movements of US-flagged ships and submarines, inside Naval contract information, and even intelligence about ongoing American law enforcement investigations. With all of this knowledge being fed to him, Leonard was able to steer these US ships (including aircraft carriers) to dock at his preferred ports, where he would then grossly overcharge the Navy for services like barges, food, tugboats, and even removing all of the grade-A American poop. He didn’t stop with just the guys on the ship, either. The scandal would reveal how Francis’ tentacles spread deeply into contracting offices, US-based Naval facilities, and even law enforcement. He then used the favorite tool of the businessman, hookers and cash, to recruit Navy personnel into corrupt activities such as steering favorable contracts his way, and even inhibiting US government financial oversight.

Was he, in fact, fat?

Image credit: The Washington Post

Meh. Thiccc? Sure. Portly? Indeed. Corpulent? Absolutely. I mean when I think of “Fat,” I am more apt to think something along the lines of this. Or even (shudder) this. Francis was 6’3, 350 pounds, and that was WITH a stapled stomach. No doubt without that stapling, he would have been “Grossly Obese” Leonard. Personally, it seems Francis should have called himself “Paunchy Leonard,” but perhaps that failed to convey not only his physical girth, but his outsized influence and wealth. In fact, that pleased-looking US Admiral in the above picture is none other than former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen! Outsized influence, indeed.

How did the scandal unfold?

The scheme began to unravel starting wayyyy back in 2006, when a US Naval Officer Dave Schaus (no doubt NOT provided with prostitutes) started to become suspicious about some of the GDMA contracts. But Francis had placed his informants well, and a former US Air Force veteran working as a civilian in the Navy’s contracting office in Singapore named Paul Simpkins (provided with PLENTY of prostitutes/cash,) managed to squash any investigation. For his corruption, Simpkins would eventually be sentenced to six years in prison and forced to hand over $600,000 in penalties. Not only was Schaus’s inquiry buried, he said other Navy officers (no doubt displeased with his meddling with their prostitutes)  “made my life hell.”

But the collapse had begun. The Navy’s Inspector General got hold of some documents that claimed GDMA was enormously overcharging the Navy for services. Quickly following this, the NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Services) was sent some documents by an anonymous whistleblower claiming fraud, waste, and abuse with the prices GDMA was charging at the port in Subic Bay, Philippines. But even here, Francis had eyes and ears. NCIS forwarded the anonymous claims to the Navy’s Singapore contracting office, where Francis’s informants in the office claimed the allegations were false; quickly closed the case.

But the NCIS themselves had not escaped the stench of scandal, reportedly opening and closing as many as TWENTY SEVEN investigations without taking a single action against GDMA. In standard government worker obfuscation, the NCIS has never once explained their lack of action in this case. Hapless, bumbling, former Obama administration Navy Secretary Ray Mabus (who infamously took an enormous study on female US Marines that showed they significantly underperformed compared to their male counterparts and threw it right in the trash can) admitted in 2010 that he could not defend the opening and quick closing of 27 separated investigations. So what explained the lack of enthusiasm rom the NCIS to pursue the case; were they really that upset that they weren’t cut in on the booze/hookers? Maybe!

The most common reason for the NCIS bumbling given during the various trials was that the US Navy was simply incapable of managing the complex logistics required in the area without the reliance on sordid characters like Francis. Indeed, in 2016, Navy Commander Mike Misiewicz (provided with MANY prostitutes) admitted, “He was a crook, but he was our crook.” Misiewicz would later get six and a half years in the Big House.

Speaking of 2010, it would take until that year for the Navy to again become suspicious that the bills submitted by GDMA were padded. But again, Francis had an informant, a former Navy commander named Jose Luis Sanchez (SO MANY prostitutes) that continually relayed to him information on the scrutiny. But it was all already coming undone. Federal agents, finally deciding to start doing their jobs, started sending purposely false information into various Naval contract offices to see who the rats were; eventually luring him to the United States under false pretenses of discussing the Obama administration’s so-called “China pivot.” Francis was then arrested at the San Diego Marriott by NCIS agents and started squealing as a cooperative witness.

To date, more than four hundred people, including SIXTY admirals, have been eyeballed in this case. Many of those did not face any charges, but did receive administrative punishment, quietly forced out of the Navy, denied promotion, or dismissed from their jobs. However, thirty-four Navy officials and contractors were criminally charged. Twenty-nine of them have now been either found guilty or plead out. Which was probably a good idea, considering that Francis had tons of emails from them requesting photographs of the hookers ahead of their visits so they could decide which of the young ladies (or dudes; let’s not rule anything out here) with whom they found fetching enough to lubricate up and have some tender love making seshes.

This brings us to the final 5 officers now facing trial in San Diego: Former Rear Admiral Bruce Loveless, former Captains David Newland, James Dolan, and David Lausman, and former Commander Mario Herrera. All five of them served on the same ship during various times, the USS Blue Ridge, from 2004 through 2014. (which I’m sure is a total coincidence and did not mean in any way that they were letting each other know where to get the midget prostitutes and ten thousand dollar steak dinners for free.) They’re all facing various charges of conspiracy, bribery, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

So where is Big Fatty during all of this? He’s still chilling on house arrest in San Diego, beset with a number of health problems. Shocking, considering his trim, athletic figure. Keep in mind, as a cooperating witness in all of this for years, he started to get frustrated with the slow progress of the trial. He finally broke his long silence on the matter by going to the media. But not any of the big names; Francis actually appeared on the “Fat Leonard” podcast with author and journalist Tom Wright to explain his side of the story; basically brag about all these senior Navy officers that he plied with the never-ending booze and piles of sweaty foreign prostitutes. This appearance would actually end up being a huge deal in the trial, when a subpoena was issued for the previously unaired interviews. Project Brazen, Wright’s parent company, objected to this subpoena, arguing that these were journalistic materials and therefore privileged content. A US District Court judge disagreed, ordering Project Brazen to turn over the tapes. Believing the ruling to be a threat to media freedom, Tom “Fuck The Government” Wright went ahead and just posted all the raw footage online for the public.

What’s happening in that trial anyway; are hookers still involved?

You bet they are! As a matter of fact, during the evidentiary hearing, explosive new allegations emerged that actually threatened the prosecutors’ entire case. This all centered around whether federal investigators failed to disclose possible exculpatory evidence to the defense team. In legalese, this exculpatory evidence disclosure requirement is known as the “Brady Rule,” after the famous 1963 Supreme Court case. The defense attorneys pounced; moving for a mistrial and trying to have the entire thing tossed.  In this particular instance, the defense asked why those federal investigators did not create a report that could be reviewed in court about the conversations the investigators had both over the phone and text messages with a prostitute in the Philippines. The hooker, referred to as “Ynah,” was allegedly paid directly by Francis to have sex with one of the defendants.

According to the prostitute conversations, Ynah said she, in fact, did NOT have sex with a man (she would not identify him, but presumably one of the defendants,) and actually slept on the couch outside his hotel room. In a classic hooker hustling move, she went on to say that she had lied about banging the guy to Francis to ensure she’d still get paid. According to the prosecution, the failure to write the report was just a simple case of this task falling through the cracks, unwittingly outing themselves as incompetent bumblers. The defense team raised objections, saying, “Hey man… Your inability to accomplish simple tasks like writing something down is not an excuse to violate the Brady Rule, plus you’re lazy, feeble, and I wouldn’t trust you to carry out the job of cleaning my shitter.” (That isn’t a direct quote, but you know that’s what they were thinking.)

Eventually the judge had to call a timeout on the entire thing while they try to figure out whether this Filipina lady of the night was actually telling the truth, and if that testimony will even be part of the prosecution’s case. It was not out of the realm of possibility that the court could have seen “Ynah” flown right to San Diego to testify on the stand. Sadly, this hilarity failed to materialize; it would have been hilarious. One wonders if she would have made eye contact with the Navy officer (or officers) she supposedly serviced; or if they had had a chance to reminisce about their hot, greased-up evenings in an Asian penthouse. Remember Francis has also claimed that he has in his possession clandestinely-filmed videos of multiple Naval officers whaling away on various hookers; tragically, those videos also failed to make an appearance at the trial.

This case appears to be far from a slam dunk. If I had to put on my oracle clothing, I would guess that the defense is just hoping the jury buys their classic, “Admit nothing. Deny everything. Make counter accusations. Hope to hell ‘Ynah’ doesn’t strut into the courtroom in her prosecution-supplied appropriate clothing” defense. You know these guys were PRAYING that Leonard was just blowing gas when he said he had the room wired for sound and video. But even without the conviction of these particular five doofuses, Fat Leonard did peel back the curtain on a disturbing, oft-unspoken aspect of the military: The alarming ease in which a champagne steak dinner followed by some rub and tug can sway Navy personnel to forget a few things. Namely, duty, honor, country, and a few other old-timey attributes a United States military officer is expected to uphold.

It is difficult to make a prediction on the trial outcome; juries can notoriously be ridiculous and stupid. Not to mention the trial is taking place in San Diego, a huge military town that perhaps will forgive men in uniform for their overseas peccadilloes. And if the best hard evidence the prosecution has is the testimony from a Filipina prostitutes, theses guys could easily walk. At least on the criminal chargers; there’s always the spectre of “conduct unbecoming” and other non-judicial punishment. Either way, Vet TV will be keeping a close eye on this trial with alllllllllll the popcorn… Be sure and leave your thoughts/predictions in the comments below!

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Brian “BK” Kimber

Content Producer, VET Tv

BK is the host of the popular international news podcast, “World News with BK,” now with almost 300 weekly episodes. A military veteran, BK served in the elite United States Air Force Pararescue (PJ) teams. He is a graduate of some of the military’s toughest schools, among them the USAF Pararescue indoctrination course, US Army Special Forces Combat Diver Qualification course, the USAF Pararescue Medical course, and the US Army Military Freefall (HALO) school.

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