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Wed May 15, 2019, 06:59 AM

SECNAV Censures 2 Captains as Part of 'Fat Leonard' Investigation


SECNAV Censures 2 Captains as Part of ‘Fat Leonard’ Investigation

By: Gidget Fuentes

May 14, 2019 8:42 PM

The Secretary of the Navy administratively punished a senior captain described as a linchpin in a corruption scandal that defrauded the U.S. government of more than $34.8 million and ensnared dozens of commanders and officials in the bribery and fraud investigation, according to letters obtained by USNI News.

In a letter of censure to Capt. Heedong Choi, Richard V. Spencer criticized the officer for “leadership failures” and allegiance to Leonard Francis, president of the ship-husbanding contractor Glenn Defense Marine Asia. Francis and GDMA are at the focus of the federal investigation to steer Navy contracts to his Singapore-based company by bribing officials and skimming off inflated, fraudulent contracts.

Among the officers caught in the investigation is a now-retired officer, Capt. Ricardo Martinez, who Spencer also administratively censured last week for “misconduct” for soliciting favors and taking $15,800 in bribes while serving as a naval attaché in Indonesia and New Zealand from 2002 to 2006.

Choi’s initial posting to a 7th Fleet-command staff assignment in 2001 began what became a decade-long and “inappropriate relationship” with Francis, Spencer wrote in the secretarial letter of censure, dated April 26.

Spencer cited numerous occasions where Choi, who commanded guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee (DDG-90) from 2008 to 2010, solicited and accepted favors and gifts from Francis worth more than $25,000. During his tenure as Chafee’s top officer, Choi got free or discounted lodging at luxury hotels in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong and accepted gifts including Dom Perignon champagne and Cohiba Maduro cigars. Francis spent about $18,000 for an “elaborate and lavish private dinner,” complete with a jazz ensemble, that Choi arranged for a marriage proposal in 2009, the letter stated.

Martinez, according to the censure letter, solicited gifts at Francis’ expense that included business cards, hotel discounts, dinners and electronics as he helped Francis with documents and letters to promote GDMA and help obtain Navy contracts on 13 different occasions. At one point in 2006, he sent Francis “a hand-written note and traditional wooden Maori waka huia box in connection with your employment request,” Spencer wrote. Another time Martinez gave Francis “sensitive and nonpublic information” regarding an incident involving a competing defense contractor.

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