Navy suspends 7th officer in bribery probe

The Navy announced Thursday that it has suspended another official — the seventh in two months — for his alleged ties to a major Singapore-based defense contractor accused of fraud and bribery in a scandal that continues to escalate.

Capt. David Haas, a Naval Academy graduate and the deputy commander of a coastal patrol unit based in San Diego, was suspended and reassigned Nov. 15. Navy officials said he is under investigation for his connections to the contractor, Glenn Defense Marine Asia, but declined to provide details. He has not been charged with a crime.

Also Thursday, the chief executive of Glenn Defense Marine, Leonard Glenn Francis, appeared in shackles in a federal courtroom in San Diego, where he pleaded not guilty in one of three separate fraud and conspiracy cases brought against him.

Known as “Fat Leonard” in Navy circles for his imposing girth, and equally renowned for his lavish lifestyle, Francis is accused of bribing officers with prostitutes, cash and luxury travel in exchange for inside information about Navy contracts and ship movements.

Francis’s lawyers have declined to comment on the charges against him. His firm held $200 million worth of contracts to service and supply Navy vessels in Asia until September, when the Pentagon abruptly severed the arrangements after doing business with him for a quarter century.

According to court records filed by federal investigators, Francis had several moles who served in key positions in the Navy’s Seventh Fleet, which is responsible for operations across much of Asia and the Pacific Ocean.

Navy officials declined to answer questions about the relationship between Haas and Francis. Navy records show, however, that Haas worked directly for the commander of the Seventh Fleet from August 2011 until this July. He also previously served as the executive officer aboard the USS Blue Ridge, the Seventh Fleet flagship, from 2001 to 2003. At least two other Navy officers under investigation also served on the Blue Ridge.

Haas later served as the commander of the USS Thach, a guided-missile frigate that frequently deployed to Asia. In 2009, he became a mini-celebrity in the Navy when he competed in the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii, a famous endurance contest for triathletes.

Federal prosecutors have filed bribery-related charges against two Navy commanders and a senior agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Francis and another Glenn Defense Marine executive were arrested in September in San Diego and face similar charges. All the defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Meanwhile, the Navy has said that two admirals and another captain are also under investigation and have been suspended or placed on leave, although none has been charged with a crime.

Navy officials have said they began investigating Glenn Defense Marine several years ago on suspicion of contract fraud and overbilling, but could not make any charges stick until recently because Francis was routinely able to obtain inside information about the progress of the probes.

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