SAN DIEGO -- The first of nine defendants in a massive U.S. Navy bribery case was sentenced to 27 months in prison Thursday for providing classified information to a Malaysian defense contractor.
Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Layug told the court that he made a mistake and let his ego and greed lead him to betray his country.
"It's very shameful what I did," Layug said.
U.S. District Court Judge Janis Sammartino in San Diego agreed.
"You put the country at risk," she said in handing down the sentence.
In his plea deal, Layug admitted to accepting a digital camera, electronic gadgets, luxury hotel stays and other gifts, including $1,000 in monthly payments from Singapore-based Glenn Defence Marine Asia Ltd., or GDMA, in exchange for providing the company classified ship schedules.
Prosecutors asked for the 27-month term, saying Layug was the least culpable in the investigation centred on the company's president, Leonard Glenn Francis. Layug faced up to five years behind bars.
Francis, nicknamed "Fat Leonard" for his girth, has admitted to bribing numerous Navy officials with lavish gifts, including prostitutes, luxury hotels, and Cuban cigars. He used the bribes to obtain information that helped him beat out the competition and get Navy captains to steer ships to Pacific ports where he overcharged the Navy, prosecutors said.
Court records show Francis used the contacts to bilk the Navy out of some $20 million.
Seven of the defendants, including Layug, have pleaded guilty. Two have pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutor Mark Pletcher indicated Thursday more arrests could still come.
"This sets the bar as to where this case is going," he told the judge, adding that in coming weeks that current commanders and retired Navy officials who are more high profile, educated and experienced than Layug are scheduled to be sentenced.
Pletcher said that while Layug has expressed remorse for his actions, the court should not overlook the fact that Layug used his personal email and went to pass the information secretly. He also was on a monthly payroll for GDMA as part of the scheme.
"These things all show his prolonged and dedicated commitment to making this conspiracy work," he said.
Three admirals have been censured but never charged.