Trading military secrets for sex, luxury travels and elaborate dinners — sounds straight out of a Hollywood thriller. But real life is often stranger than fiction. Nine high-ranking U.S. Navy officers, including a retired rear admiral, were charged Tuesday in one of the worst bribery scandals to hit the military in years.
The officers, all from the Seventh Fleet in the Pacific — the largest fleet in the Navy — are accused of taking bribes from foreign defense contractor Leonard Francis, the former CEO of Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a press release.
“Naval Criminal Investigative Service, in concert with our partner agencies, remains resolved to follow the evidence wherever it leads, and to help hold accountable those who make personal gain a higher priority than professional responsibility,” Andrew L. Traver, director of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, said in the press release. “It's unconscionable that some individuals choose to enrich themselves at the expense of military security.”
Retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Bruce Loveless is the highest-ranking official involved in the case, and he recently retired from a key position in the Pentagon. He was taken into custody from his home in Coronado city in San Diego County, California, according to the indictment by the DOJ. In 2013, Loveless was demoted by one rank when investigation teams found about his involvement, the New York Times reported.
A total of 25 individuals — 20 current or former Navy officials and five executives from Glenn Defense Marine Asia — have now been charged in the fraud and bribery investigation.
The alleged bribes include $25,000 watches, $2,000 boxes of Cohiba cigars, and bottles of cognac and expenses at hotel rooms costing $600 a night, the Washington Post reported. Francis, the defense contractor, allegedly sponsored sex parties for several officers of the Seventh Fleet’s flagship, the USS Blue Ridge.
The DOJ said the scheme allegedly cost the Navy, as well as American taxpayers, “tens of millions of dollars.”
“This is a fleecing and betrayal of the United States Navy in epic proportions, and it was allegedly carried out by the Navy’s highest-ranking officers,” Acting Attorney Alana W. Robinson of the Southern District of California said in the DOJ press release. “The alleged conduct amounts to a staggering degree of corruption by the most prominent leaders of the Seventh Fleet — the largest fleet in the U.S. Navy — actively worked together as a team to trade secrets for sex, serving the interests of a greedy foreign defense contractor, and not those of their own country.”