Opening statements were delivered Wednesday in the trial of five Navy officers charged with federal crimes for allegedly accepting lavish gifts in exchange for assisting foreign defense contractor Leonard Glenn “Fat Leonard” Francis and his ship husbanding company.
The defendants, former members of the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet, are accused of accepting bribes to steer business in the Western Pacific to Francis’ Singapore-based company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia. The officers allegedly provided Francis with classified information regarding ship schedules and used their positions in the Navy to influence the movements of ships to ports serviced by GDMA.
They also helped recruit other Navy officers into Francis’ flock, ensuring he “continued to have a loyal group of Navy officers” at his beck and call, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Wasserman said in her opening statement.
In exchange, they were allegedly provided with expensive meals, fancy hotel accommodations, and the services of prostitutes, all on Francis’ dime.
“The members of this conspiracy took care of Leonard Francis because he took care of them,” Wasserman said. “Although sworn to the Navy, the (defendants) worked for Francis.”
On Wednesday afternoon, a federal jury in San Diego heard opening statements from the prosecution, as well as a defense opening statement from an attorney for David Newland, chief of staff aboard the USS Blue Ridge. The remaining defense opening arguments for Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless, Cmdr. Mario Herrera, Capt. James Dolan and Capt. David Lausman, are expected to be completed on Thursday.
While Wasserman referred to Newland as Francis’ “ultimate fixer,” who was able to use his influence to get ships moved to GDMA ports when Francis desired, Newland’s attorney, Joseph Mancano, denied that Newland had any role related to ship husbanding contracts during his time in the Seventh Fleet.
Mancano said his client attended dinners hosted by Francis, but denied that Newland ever received any gifts from the defense contractor, who Moncano said had spun a web of lies implicating numerous officers as a way to save himself from imprisonment for defrauding the Navy.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office says GDMA overbilled the Navy by more than $35 million for providing Naval ships with husbanding services.
Francis is among 29 people who have pleaded guilty in connection with the case, including four other Seventh Fleet members.
City News Service contributed to this article.