Navy investigator to plead guilty in fraud case

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SAN DIEGO -- A senior Navy investigator will plead guilty to bribery charges for accepting prostitution services and expensive trips in exchange for providing information and advice to an Asian defense contractor at the center of a multimillion-dollar fraud probe, the Navy official's lawyer said Thursday.

John Beliveau II will plead guilty to bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery Tuesday in federal court in San Diego, his attorney Jan Ronis said.

The guilty plea will be the first for prosecutors in the case rocking the Pentagon. The supervisory agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service is one of three Navy officials who have been arrested in the case.

Prosecutors allege that the Navy officials were in cahoots with Malaysian defense contractor Leonard Glenn Francis, who was arrested in San Diego in September. Authorities say Mr. Francis, 49, the CEO of Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd., or GDMA, offered bribes to Navy officers in exchange for confidential information -- including ship routes -- that he used to overbill the Navy for port services in Asia.

Mr. Francis and his cousin, Alex Wisidagama, a company manager who was also arrested, have pleaded not guilty. Navy Cmdr. Jose Luis Sanchez and Cmdr. Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz also have pleaded not guilty.

According to a criminal complaint, Mr. Beliveau, 44, not only kept Mr. Francis abreast of the bribery probe but also advised him on how to respond.

Mr. Ronis declined to say whether his client has agreed to cooperate with investigators in the expanding probe, which prompted the Navy to suspend two admirals' access to classified material.

Mr. Beliveau faces a maximum sentence of 20 years for the two charges he is admitting. "He accepts responsibility for what he's done, and he's hoping for a fair sentence," Mr. Ronis said.

Prosecutors declined to comment on the development Thursday. Mr. Francis' lawyer, Pat Swan, also declined to comment on whether he is concerned that Mr. Beliveau's change in plea could hurt his client's case.

The accusations signal serious national security breaches and corruption and have set 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. Other unnamed Navy personnel are mentioned in court documents as getting gifts from Mr. Francis, who is known in military circles as "Fat Leonard" because of his wide girth.

Former Navy officer David Glazier, a Loyola Law School professor in Los Angeles, said the change in plea could be good news for the prosecution. "Having someone who is on the inside of the scandal cooperate would both make it easier to obtain convictions against others and also facilitate a broader investigation," he said. "He may have known others who participated, ... but as long as he was fighting charges himself, he had no incentive to say anything at all."

Prosecutors say Mr. Francis bribed Navy commanders to give him confidential ship route information or even move Navy vessels like chess pieces, diverting aircraft carriers, destroyers and other ships to Asian ports with lax oversight, where GDMA could inflate costs and invent tariffs by using phony port authorities. In exchange, Mr. Francis lined up prostitutes, luxury hotel stays and tickets to shows for the Navy officials, including a Lady Gaga concert in Thailand, 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. Mr. Francis' company serviced Navy ships in the Pacific for 25 years. His contracts have now been suspended.

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