A retired Navy captain who was the lead public affairs officer for the U.S. Pacific Fleet pleaded guilty Tuesday to secretly providing public relations advice to corrupt Malaysian contractor Leonard Glenn "Fat Leonard" Francis, becoming the latest officer caught in the long-running corruption investigation.
The plea from Capt. Jeffrey Breslau, 52, not only adds another name to the lengthy list of current and former Navy officers and officials charged in the scheme, but also reveals yet another aspect of Navy operations that Francis corrupted -- to the point the official was literally working for Francis.
Breslau provided advice and help to Francis on how to respond to investigations that his own service was conducting of Francis's company, according to federal prosecutors in San Diego.
Also on Tuesday, a retired master chief was sentenced to 17 months in prison after admitting he accepted gifts from Francis, such as cash and paid-for rooms in fancy hotels, in return for allowing the contractor to grossly inflate bills submitted to the Navy for services provided during port stays.
Breslau was the director of public affairs for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, according to federal prosecutors in San Diego. Yet while he did public relations work for the fleet, for more than a year from March 2012 to September 2013, he worked secretly for Francis -- advising him on how best to respond to what was then a growing number of inquiries about Francis' operation from inside the Navy.
By then Navy investigators were on to Francis' years-long corruption scheme, where he bribed Navy officers and civilians with cash, services of prostitutes, fancy hotel rooms, all-expense-paid travel and other gifts.
In exchange, the Navy officials provided Francis information on upcoming port stays for Navy ships, used their influence to try to steer visits to ports where Francis controlled the ship servicing operations, bad-mouthed competitors to Francis's company Glenn Defense Marine Asia and helped him push through inflated or bogus invoices for the services his company provided.
Breslau's plea agreement said Francis paid him $65,000 for consulting services during that time period, and Breslau never told the Navy of the agreement. Among the issues he consulted on were port visit costs the Navy was billed for by GDMA, disputes with competitors and controversies over the illegal dumping of waste in ocean waters.
The plea agreement itemized some of the work Breslau did for Francis, including reviewing or editing 33 documents, writing 135 emails that provided "substantive advice" to the contractor, drawing up talking points for meetings with Navy officials 14 separate times and ghostwriting emails for Francis sent to Navy personnel.
Breslau pleaded guilty to one charge of criminal conflict of interest and is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 9. He had initially been charged on Sept. 28 in federal court in San Diego and has been free on bond since. Prosecutors said in the plea agreement that the "breadth and scope" of his conduct damaged the service.
His "willful illegal conduct in providing consulting services to Francis/GDMA substantially disrupted the functions of the U.S. Navy, including the discussions, meetings, and negotiations between Francis and other U.S. Navy personnel, who were unaware of the consulting services defendant was performing on GDMA's behalf," prosecutors alleged.
Breslau's role on Francis' payroll as a public relations adviser further outlines the extent of Francis' network of corruption that spread throughout the Navy's Seventh Fleet. He had an investigator with the Navy Criminal Investigative Services who gave him confidential files detailing ongoing investigations of Francis, logistics officers who told him about Navy efforts to control costs and how to evade them, and contracting officers who steered work to GDMA.
So far 33 people have been charged in the scheme and 22, -- including Francis -- have pleaded guilty. Francis was arrested five years ago and since then has been cooperating with prosecutors as they have unraveled his network.
Francis has admitted to overbilling the Navy some $35 million for services that his company provided military ships, such as trash removal, water and security.
Retired Master Chief Ricarte Icmat David pleaded guilty in September to one charge of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud. He worked in logistics for the Seventh Fleet from 2003 to 2012. A master chief is the highest pay grade for enlisted personnel.
In exchange for approving the inflated invoices, he got hotel rooms and prostitutes and, according to the indictment, $40,000 in cash, most of which apparently went to build a home in the Philippines, where David lives.
This article is written by Greg Moran from The San Diego Union-Tribune and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.