The latest development in the years-long “Fat Leonard” Navy contract corruption scandal is a guilty plea by an active-duty U.S. Navy commander in connection with his efforts to obstruct a federal criminal investigation of the owner and chief executive officer of a multi-national defense contracting firm headquartered in Singapore.
The plea was entered last week by Bobby Pitts who served as the officer in charge of the Navy’s Fleet Industrial Supply Command (FISC) in Singapore.
This development is the most recent in a string of guilty pleas, indictments and convictions – spanning more than three years – related to alleged fraudulent activities of Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA) and its chief executive, Leonard Glenn “Fat Leonard” Francis. So far, 27 individuals have been charged in connection with the corruption and fraud investigation into GDMA. Of those charged, at least 20 are current or former Navy officials and five are GDMA executives. Several additional cases are pending. Francis’ reputation for corruption and bribery in recent years has led him to be nicknamed “Fat Leonard.” (For background, see The Washington Post article, “The Man Who Seduced the 7th Fleet,” here.)
Bobby Pitts, 48, of Chesapeake, Virginia, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. in connection with the NCIS’s investigation of Francis. Pitts is set to be sentenced on December 1, by U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernard Skomal of the Southern District of California, who accepted his plea on August 15, 2017.
According to admissions made as part of his plea agreement, Pitts, as part of his duties in Singapore during the period August 2009 to May 2011, learned that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and several civilian employees of the Navy were investigating whether Francis was over-billing the Navy on ship husbanding contracts. Pitts had access to internal Navy documents pertaining to investigative steps that the Navy was considering and admitted that he shared this information with Francis, with the intent to impede and obstruct the Navy’s oversight of its contracts with GDMA. On Nov. 23, 2010, for example, Pitts forwarded to a representative of GDMA an internal Navy email discussing FISC’s intention to contact officials with the Royal Thai Navy to determine whether GDMA had been billing the U.S. Navy for services in fact rendered by the Thai government.
In pleading guilty, Pitts admitted, among other things, to working with Francis and other foreign-defense-contractor personnel to help them cover up GDMA’s overcharging practices with respect to providing protection to U.S. Navy forces deployed in the Western Pacific.
So far, 18 of 27 defendants charged in the U.S. Navy bribery and fraud scandal have pleaded guilty. All defendants are presumed innocent unless and until convicted beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The case is being prosecuted by the Fraud Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Assistant U.S. Attorneys from the Southern District of California.
For more information on this prosecution, see: http://contractingacademy.gatech.edu/?s=fat