Valdosta Daily Times

Top News

November 5, 2013

Bribery case reverberates across Navy with arrests

SAN DIEGO — It started with an invitation to the Broadway production of “The Lion King” in Tokyo for the Navy commander, his wife and their children.

In the end, the Malaysian defense contractor known in military circles as “Fat Leonard” would use prostitutes, plane tickets and other bribes to hook the U.S. Naval officer into a scheme that overbilled the Pentagon by millions, investigators say in court papers.

The accusations unfolding in a federal court case in San Diego signal serious national security breaches and corruption, setting off high-level meetings at the Pentagon with the threat that more people, including those of higher ranks, could be swept up as the investigation continues. A hearing Nov. 8 could set a trial date.

According to the court documents, Navy commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz passed confidential information on ship routes to Leonard Francis’ Singapore-based company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd., or GDMA.

Misiewicz and Francis moved Navy vessels like chess pieces, diverting aircraft carriers, destroyers and other ships to Asian ports with lax oversight where Francis could inflate costs, the criminal complaint alleges. The firm overcharged the Navy millions for fuel, food and other services it provided, and invented tariffs by using phony port authorities, prosecutors say.

“It’s pretty big when you have one person who can dictate where ships are going to go and being influenced by a contractor,” said retired Rear Adm. Terry McKnight, who has no direct knowledge of the investigation. “A lot of people are saying, ‘How could this happen?”’

So far, authorities have arrested Misiewicz; Francis; the general manager of global government contracts for Francis’ company, Alex Wisidagama; and a senior Navy investigator, John Beliveau II.

Beliveau is accused of keeping Francis abreast of the probe and advising him on how to respond in exchange for such things as luxury trips and prostitution services. All have pleaded not guilty.  Defense attorneys declined to comment.

Senior Navy officials said they believe more people likely will be implicated in the scheme, but it’s too early to tell how many or how high this will go in the naval ranks. Other unnamed Navy personnel are mentioned in court documents as getting gifts from Francis.

Francis is legendary in military circles in that part of the world, said McKnight, who does not know him personally. He is known for extravagance. His 70,000-square-foot bungalow in an upscale Singapore neighborhood has drawn spectators yearly since 2007 to its lavish, outdoor Christmas decorations, which The Straits Times described as rivaling the island city-state’s main shopping street with replicas of snowmen, lighted towering trees, and Chinese and Japanese ornaments.

“He’s a larger-than-life figure,” McKnight said. “You talk to any captain on any ship that has sailed in the Pacific and they will know exactly who he is.”

Navy spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said Navy Criminal Investigative Service agents initiated their probe in 2010. He declined to comment further, citing the ongoing investigation.

The same year, Misiewicz caught the world’s attention when he made an emotional return as a U.S. Naval commander to his native Cambodia, where he had been rescued as a child from the violence of the Khmer Rouge and adopted by an American woman. His homecoming was widely covered by international media.

Meanwhile, Francis was recruiting him for his scheme, according to court documents.

Misiewicz’s family went to a “Lion King production” in Tokyo with a company employee, and Misiewicz later was offered prostitution services, according to the criminal complaint. Within months, the Navy commander was providing Francis ship movement schedules for the USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group and other ships, the prosecution alleges.

Court documents say the manager wrote to Francis shortly afterward, saying: “We got him!! :)”

Misiewicz would refer to Francis as “Big Brother” or “Big Bro” in emails from a personal account, while Francis would call him “Little Brother” or “Little Bro,” according to the complaint.  

The company bilked the Navy out of $10 million in just one year in Thailand alone, U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said.  

In December 2011, the two exchanged emails about the schedule of the USS Blue Ridge, investigators say. According to court documents, Francis wrote Misiewicz: “Bro, Slide a Bali visit in after Jakarta, and Dili Timor after Bali.”

The complaint alleges Misiewicz followed through on the demands: In October 2012, the USS George Washington was scheduled to visit Singapore and instead was redirected by the Navy to Port Klang, Malaysia, one of Francis’ preferred ports where his company submitted fake contractor bids.

After Francis offered Misiewicz five tickets to a Lady Gaga concert in Thailand in 2012, Francis wrote: “Don’t chicken out bro we need u with us on the front lines,” according to court documents.

The federal government has suspended its contracts with Francis.

The defendants face up to five years in prison if convicted of conspiracy to commit bribery.

1
Text Only
Top News
  • Taiwan Gas Explosions_Stew.jpg Gas explosions in Taiwan

    At least 24 people were killed and 271 others injured when several underground gas explosions ripped through Taiwan’s second-largest city overnight, hurling concrete through the air and blasting long trenches in the streets, authorities said Friday.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Immigration Overload_Roge.jpg Immigration courts speed up children’s cases

    Immigration courts are speeding up hearings for the tens of thousands of Central American children caught on the U.S. border after criticism that the backlogged system is letting immigrants stay in the country for years while waiting for their cases to be heard.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Extra jurors seated for long Ga. salmonella trial

    After three days of jury selection, a panel with plenty of extra members was seated Thursday to hear the case of three people charged in connection with a deadly salmonella outbreak traced to a southwest Georgia peanut plant five years ago.

    August 1, 2014

  • Liberia West Africa E_Roge.jpg Ebola outbreak tops 700 deaths

    The death toll from the worst recorded Ebola outbreak in history surpassed 700 in West Africa as security forces went house-to-house in Sierra Leone’s capital Thursday looking for patients and others exposed to the disease.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mideast Israel Palest_Roge.jpg U.S., U.N. announce deal on Gaza cease-fire

    Israel and Hamas have agreed to a 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire beginning Friday, during which time there will be negotiations on a more durable truce in the 24-day-old Gaza war, the United States and United Nations announced Thursday.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX Congress_Stew.jpg Congress oks VA, highway bills, not border measure

    Congress ran full-tilt into election-year gridlock over immigration Thursday and staggered toward a five-week summer break after failing to agree on legislation to cope with the influx of young immigrants flocking illegally to the United States.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wisconsin Unions_Stew.jpg Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds union law

    The fight over Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s signature policy achievement, a law effectively ending collective bargaining for most public employees, ended Thursday with the state Supreme Court declaring it to be constitutional.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Today in History

    In 1714, Britain's Queen Anne died at age 49; she was succeeded by George I.

    August 1, 2014

  • GBI: Sheriff's Youth Home resident arrested in Hahira

    GBI: Sheriff's Youth Home resident arrested in Hahira

    July 31, 2014

  • Hospital: 33 dead after Guinea concert stampede

    Hundreds of people leaving a late-night rap concert on a beach in Guinea rushed to leave through a single exit, creating a stampede that killed at least 33 people, officials said Wednesday.

    July 31, 2014

Top News
Poll

Do you agree with the millage rate increases?

Yes. We need to maintain services
No. Services should have been cut.
     View Results