Two admirals on leave in Navy bribery scandal

Two Navy admirals have been put on leave and their access to classified material suspended while they are investigated as part of a bribery case involving services provided to U.S. ships in ports in the Asia-Pacific region, the Navy announced Friday.

Five people have already been charged: two Navy commanders, a Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent and two foreign businessmen.

Vice Adm. Ted Branch, director of Naval intelligence, and Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless, director of intelligence operations, have been put on leave and their access to classified material suspended, Navy spokesman Rear Adm. John F. Kirby announced in Washington.

“The allegations against Admirals Branch and Loveless involve inappropriate conduct prior to their current assignments and flag officer rank,” Kirby said. “There is no indication, nor do the allegations suggest, that in either case there was any breach of classified information.”

The Navy’s statement did not reveal the nature of the allegations nor who is making them. The case is being investigated by the NCIS.

“It is important to note that allegations are just that, allegations,” Kirby said. “Neither officer has been charged with any crime or violation. Both men retain their rank and security clearances.”

The Navy’s statement came as two of the defendants – Cmdr. Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz and foreign defense contractor Leonard Glenn Francis – appeared in federal court in San Diego. A third defendant, NCIS Special Agent John Beliveau II – was represented by his attorney.

Two other defendants – Cmdr. Jose Luis Sanchez and Alex Wisidagama, an employee of Francis’s Singapore-based company – will appear at separate hearings.

Misiewicz and Sanchez are accused of leaking confidential information about the movement of Navy ships to Francis, owner of Glenn Defense Marine Asia, which has supplied “husbanding” services to Navy ships throughout the region for more than two decades.

In return, the two officers allegedly received money, first-class travel, hotel accommodations and prostitutes.

Beliveau is accused of warning Francis that an investigation was underway to determine whether the bills submitted by his firm were padded or fraudulent for services such as food, water, fuel, tugboats, fenders, security, transportation, trash and waste removal and other things.

Prosecutors say the bribery scheme cost the Navy and taxpayers more than $10 million.

At Friday’s hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Pletcher told U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino that prosecutors plan to seek a court order prohibiting defense attorneys from “disseminating documents and evidence.”

The next court hearing is set for Feb. 28.

Both admirals are graduates of the Naval Academy. Branch, an aviator, previously was executive assistant to the commander of the Pacific Fleet. Loveless commanded the U.S. Pacific Command’s joint intelligence operations center in Pearl Harbor from 2009 to 2012.

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