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Former Navy captain pleads guilty to providing PR services, ghostwriting emails for $60,000+ in ‘Fat Leonard’ bribery scandal

The USS Essex enters dry dock at the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company in 2013. (U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Joe Kane/Released)
November 14, 2018

A former U.S. Navy captain who headed the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s public affairs has pleaded guilty, and a former Master Chief Petty Officer has been sentenced on corruption charges, for their involvement in the “Fat Leonard” bribery and fraud scandal that the Navy continues to investigate.

Former Capt. Jeffrey Breslau, 52, pleaded guilty to criminal conflict of interest charges, the Justice Department announced Tuesday. Former Master Chief Ricarte Icmat David, 62, was sentenced to 17 months in prison, one year of supervised released and must pay $30,000 in restitution.

Breslau admitted that he was paid more than $60,000 by foreign defense contractor Leonard Glenn Francis in exchange for public relations consulting services and ghostwriting emails, the Justice Department said.

Francis, known as “Fat Leonard,” a former defense contractor who was involved with the Singapore-based ship husbanding company Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), pleaded guilty to bribery and fraud charges in 2015.

He admitted to presiding “over a massive, decade-long conspiracy involving ‘scores’ of U.S. Navy officials, tens of millions of dollars in fraud and millions of dollars in bribes and lavish gifts, including luxury travel, airline upgrades, five-star hotel accommodations, top-shelf alcohol, the services of prostitutes, Cuban cigars, Kobe beef and Spanish suckling pigs,” the DOJ has said.

The Justice Department detailed Breslau’s actions:

According to admissions made as part of his guilty plea, from October 2009 until July 2012, Breslau was a Captain in the U.S. Navy assigned as Director of Public Affairs for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, headquartered in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. As part of his duties, Breslau was involved in devising the U.S. Navy’s public affairs communications strategy, and provided public affairs guidance to Pacific Fleet components and other U.S. Navy commands. From August 2012 until July 2014, Breslau was assigned to the Commanding Officer for the Joint Public Affairs Support Element in Norfolk, Virginia, where he was responsible for leading joint crisis communications teams.

Breslau admitted that from March 2012 until September 2013, while serving in the above roles for the U.S. Navy, he provided Leonard Francis with public relations consulting services, including providing advice on how to respond to issues and controversies related to Francis’s ship husbanding business with the U.S. Navy. These included issues related to port visit costs, allegations of malfeasance such as the unauthorized dumping of waste, disputes with competitors, and issues with Pacific Fleet and contracting personnel. During the course of his consulting agreement with Francis, Breslau authored, reviewed or edited at least 33 separate documents; authored at least 135 emails providing advice to Francis; provided at least 14 instances of ‘talking points’ in advance of meetings between Francis and high ranking U.S. Navy personnel; and ‘ghostwrote’ numerous emails on Francis’s behalf to be transmitted to U.S. Navy personnel. During the course of this consulting agreement, Francis paid Breslau approximately $65,000 without Breslau disclosing the agreement to the U.S. Navy.

David had been the senior-most enlisted sailor in the U.S. Navy at the time of his corrupt bargain with Francis. He was charged in August on corruption conspiracy charges, and he pleaded guilty in September.

David would allow Francis to inflate his company’s husbanding invoices and bill the U.S. Navy for services that were never rendered, in exchange for “various things of value,” the DOJ said, including five-star hotel rooms during port visits.

The former Master Chief would email Francis and call him “boss,” and he signed off emails with “V/r, Bad Boy.”

The Justice Department detailed his corruption scandal with Francis:

During this period of the illegal conduct, Master Chief David was assigned various logistics positions with the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet, including with the Fleet Industrial Supply Center in Yokosuka, Japan from June 2001 to July 2004; on the USS Essex, from July 2004 to August 2007; on the USS Kitty Hawk from September 2007 to August 2008; and on the USS George Washington from September 2008 to July 2010. In these positions, David was responsible for ordering and verifying goods and services for the ships on which he served, including from contractors during port calls. Throughout this period, David received from Francis various things of value, including five star hotel rooms during every port visit.

To fuel his half of the corrupt bargain, David repeatedly facilitated fraud on the United States by allowing Francis and GDMA to inflate the husbanding invoices to bill for services never rendered. For example, David instructed Francis to inflate invoices for the USS Essex’s anticipated November 2007 port visit to the Philippines. “Boss, Just in case I’m not on the port visit you can go ahead do your thing[,] put some dollar on the CHT/Water/Trash or Force protection[.] [Y]ou and me are the only one will know[,] just put them on my savings if we can do that . . . more power.” David signed this email “V/r, Bad Boy.” On May 9, 2007, David emailed Francis again reiterating his instruction to inflate the invoices for Francis’s company: “Just in case I’m not on that port visit you can go ahead do your thing put some dollar on the CHT/Water/Trash or Force protection[.] [J]ust you and me are the only one will know[.] [J]ust put them on my savings if we can do that . . . just getting ready for my retirement home in P.I. [M]ore power to you.” In case anything was left in doubt that David was keeping his end of the corrupt bargain, on July 11, 2007, David sent a third email instructing Francis to inflate the invoices during the USS Essex port visit to the Philippines: “Good day to you, just to let you know [I]’m heading to the mighty [USS Kitty Hawk] and the Essex will be there in Subic sometimes in November[.] [T]he one who replace me here in stock control dont have any clue so i’am giving you the permission to do whatever you want to do with the bills…throw extra dollar on the CHT/Water etc… [T]hey w[]ere all [a]utomatic take ups which the ship don’t pay for it… [J]ust don’t forget me please[.] [M]y house in P.I. is not finish yet, ok??

Their corrupt bargain continued as David transitioned to his new position aboard the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk. On or about May 8, 2008, Francis’s company paid approximately 84,637.00 HKD for hotel reservations at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong for U.S. Navy personnel assigned to the USS Kitty Hawk including 10,396 HKD for David’s four-night stay in a Harbor View Room.

So far, 33 defendants have been charged and 22 have pleaded guilty in the “Fat Leonard” corruption scandal.

This headline was edited to reflect “captain” and not “caption.”