Navy colonel changes plea and admits receiving $ 67,000 in bribes in “Fat Leonard” case

Undated photo of Leonard Francis

A Marine Corps officer once assigned to U.S. 7th Fleet Headquarters admitted to taking $ 67,000 in bribes and helping recruit others into a “cabal” of Navy officials who helped lead and inflate contracts with a Singapore-based defense firm, federal prosecutors said on Friday.

Col. Enrico “Rick” DeGuzman, 63, of Las Vegas, Nevada, appeared in federal court in San Diego, Calif. On Friday and agreed to plead guilty to bribing a public official, federal charges stemming from his relationship with Leonard Glenn Francois. Francis, or “Fat Leonard” as he is known, was the owner and general manager of Glenn Defense Marine Asia, which pursued lucrative contracts from the Navy to provide maintenance services for ships in the Asia-Pacific region.

“DeGuzman admitted that in exchange for this and other things of value, he corruptly used his official position to help Francis,” said Randy Grossman, the acting US attorney for the Southern District of California, in the ad. “DeGuzman admitted that he made an effort to influence Navy ships in ports served by GDMA; he shared confidential Navy information with Francis in order to help GDMA; and he helped assess and indoctrinate potential new members of the Navy into Francis’ cabal.

DeGuzman faces up to 15 years in prison and a $ 250,000 fine when convicted on November 24.

The guilty plea is a turnaround in a case DeGuzman has been fighting for four years after numerous hearings and delays after his 2017 indictment on federal charges of conspiracy, bribery and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. It also comes just three days after an alleged co-conspirator on Francis’s website – former Navy Chief Warrant Officer Robert Gorsuch, 54, of Mississippi – agreed to plead guilty to corruption.

The federal investigation, conducted jointly with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, led to the first round of charges in 2013 in the broad corruption, conspiracy and bribery investigation involving Francis and GDMA. He trapped dozens of officials and contractors across the fleet as well as Francis and several GDMA agents for their business relationships dating back to 2006.

Francis pleaded guilty on February 5, 2015, but his sentencing hearing has been repeatedly postponed. Last week, the federal judge in charge of cases agreed to postpone his conviction from September 24 to April 18, 2022, according to court records.

DeGuzman and Gorsuch are the first two of the “nine GDMAs” – all former 7th Fleet officials indicted and charged together in the case – to plead guilty. The remaining seven accused are Retired Rear Admiral Bruce Loveless; Capts. David Newland, James Dolan, Donald Hornbeck and David Lausman; Cmdr. Mario Herrera; and Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Shedd.

Until a few days ago, they were on track for a trial to begin on November 1. But US District Judge Janis L. Sammartino, who oversees the “Fat Leonard” cases in San Diego, accepted another postponement of the start of the trial. , which is now scheduled to begin on February 7, 2022 and is expected to take three months.

Federal prosecutors have filed criminal charges against 34 Navy officials, defense contractors and GDMA officers, and 27 so far have pleaded guilty, they said, “collectively admitting that they accepted millions of dollars in luxury travel and accommodation, meals or prostitute services, among many other things of value, from Francis in exchange for helping GDMA win and maintain contracts and overcharging the Navy from over $ 35 million.

The charges against DeGuzman stem from his tour from July 2004 to July 2007 as a Naval Fleet Officer on the 7th Fleet Headquarters in Japan. He then worked as Deputy Chief of Staff for U.S. Marine Corps Forces Operations in Hawaii, and then as Deputy Chief of Staff for MARFORPAC Operations.

Federal prosecutors detailed some of the freebies and extravagances DeGuzman admitted to accepting from Francis and GDMA.

DeGuzman joined others in a $ 20,000 bill at the Hong Kong restaurant Petrus on February 17, 2006, during a port call of the 7th Fleet command ship USS Blue Ridge. “To cover up and cover up their corrupt relationship, Francis created fraudulent receipts for the Petrus dinner which, DeGuzman knew, represented a small fraction of the actual cost of the dinner,” prosecutors said. “While in Hong Kong, DeGuzman and others also stayed at the Shangri-La Hotel paid, in part, by Francis.

The following month, during a visit to the Blue Ridge harbor in Singapore on March 9, 2006, DeGuzman joined Francis and others for entertainment, rooftop cocktails and an expensive dinner – with a “terrine of foie gras, duck leg confit, oxtail soup and bar roast chili, accompanied by expensive wines and champagne, followed by digestives and cigars ”- with at Restaurant Jaan priced at $ 40,000 for Francis. Francis a Also covered the $ 30,000 bill for DeGuzman’s stay at the Park Hyatt in Tokyo and dinner with others at the city’s New York Grill on September 9, 2006.

The following year, Francis covered some $ 50,000 in hotel costs for DeGuzman and others at the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore during the Blue Ridge harbor visit from February 22-27, 2007. “In As part of this port tour, DeGuzman and others dined with Francis at Francis’ expense on several occasions, including at the Blu Restaurant at the Shangri-La Hotel and at the Jaan Restaurant at the top of the Shangri-La Hotel ” , prosecutors said.

A month later, on March 24, 2007, DeGuzman joined others at a dinner that Francis hosted at Oak Door Restaurant in Tokyo, dining on foie gras, thermidor lobster, sendai fillet and an expensive dessert cake and later with brandy and cigars. “During the event, attendees posed for a photo wearing bespoke GDMA ties,” prosecutors said.

They said that several months later, before DeGuzman left 7th Fleet for Hawaii, “he notified Francis in an email dated July 7, 2007”.[U]Unfortunately I don’t think I will be able to influence people [in my next assignment] like I did there in the 7th Fleet.

Grossman said that “at every extravagant meal, Enrico DeGuzman violated his duty to serve the United States with honor and integrity. Today those choices have caught up with him and he has been held responsible. “

DeGuzman “knowingly abused his position of trust as a senior US Marine Corps officer to actively work with and defend a corrupt US Navy contractor, while awaiting and receiving lavish gifts in return, all at the expense of the US Navy and the nation. US security interests, “said Kelly P. Mayo, director of the Department of Defense Inspector General’s office, US Department of Defense. criminal investigation of the defense, in the announcement. “As this case highlights, DCIS will work tirelessly with its partners to eradicate corruption within the Ministry of Defense and its components in order to maintain confidence, faith and valuable resources of the American taxpayer. “

DeGuzman “put his personal interests above the protection of the nation,” said NCIS director Omar Lopez. “NCIS and our law enforcement partners will continue to aggressively prosecute any act of corruption involving Mr. Francis and GDMA or otherwise, as such wrongdoing diminishes the operational readiness of the fleet and the superiority of combatants. of the USMC and the US Navy. “

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