Judge Tosses 5 Convictions in Navy 'Fat Leonard' Case

Government cited prosecutorial errors in bribery convictions of retired military officers
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 21, 2024 5:54 PM CDT
Judge Tosses 5 Convictions in Navy Bribery Case
This undated photo provided by the US Marshals Service shows Leonard Francis.   (U.S. Marshals Service via AP, File)

A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed the felony convictions of five retired military officers who had admitted to accepting bribes from a Malaysian contractor nicknamed "Fat Leonard" in one of the Navy's biggest corruption cases. The dismissals came at the request of the government—not the defense—citing prosecutorial errors. More, from the AP:

  • Retired US Navy officers Donald Hornbeck, Robert Gorsuch and Jose Luis Sanchez, and US Marine Corps Col. Enrico DeGuzman had all admitted to accepting bribes from defense contractor Leonard Francis, nicknamed "Fat Leonard." The enigmatic figure—who was 6-foot-3 and weighed 350 pounds at one time—is at the center of the Navy's most extensive corruption cases in recent history.

  • Four of them pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disclosing information on Tuesday, while US Navy officer Stephen Shedd's entire case was thrown out. It marked the latest setback to the government's yearslong efforts in going after dozens of military officials tied to Francis.
  • Francis owned and operated Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd., which supplied food, water and fuel to US Navy vessels. He pleaded guilty to offering more than $500,000 in cash bribes, along with other gifts and wild sex parties in Southeast Asia, to Navy officials, defense contractors and others. The scheme allowed him to bilk the maritime service out of at least $35 million by getting commanders to redirect ships to ports he controlled and overcharging for services, according to the prosecution. He was arrested in 2013 in a sting operation in San Diego.

  • Prosecutors said in legal filings outlining their request for Tuesday's dismissals that the action does not mean the defendants did not commit the charged crimes but because information was withheld from the defense and other mistakes were made, they wanted to ensure justice was served fairly.
  • In 2022, Judge Janis Sammartino had ruled the former lead federal prosecutor committed "flagrant misconduct" by withholding information from defense lawyers. In September, the felony convictions of four former Navy officers were also vacated. The four men pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and agreed to pay a $100 fine each.
  • Francis returned to the US late last year after a daring escape from his house arrest in San Diego in 2022. He was later captured in Venezuela, which extradited him to the US as part of a prisoner exchange.
(More Fat Leonard stories.)

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