A Navy ad­mi­ral

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY CRAIG WHIT­LOCK Tony Perry in San Diego con­trib­uted to this re­port.

be­gan ac­cept­ing gifts from the con­trac­tor known as “Fat Leonard” 20 years ago, ear­lier than thought, records al­leged.

The high­est-rank­ing of­fi­cer con­victed so far in a colos­sal Navy cor­rup­tion scan­dal be­gan ac­cept­ing a cor­nu­copia of gifts and pros­ti­tutes from an Asian de­fense con­trac­tor 20 years ago and later suf­fered a men­tal break­down when he learned au­thor­i­ties were making ar­rests in the case, new court doc­u­ments al­lege.

Robert J. Gil­beau be­came the first ac­tive-duty Navy ad­mi­ral ever to be con­victed of a felony when he pleaded guilty last year to ly­ing to fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors. He is sched­uled to be sen­tenced next month and likely faces up to 18 months in prison.

In a plea deal last June, Gil­beau ad­mit­ted to making false state­ments about his con­tacts with Leonard Glenn Fran­cis, also known as “Fat Leonard,” a crooked de­fense con­trac­tor from Sin­ga­pore who has pleaded guilty to brib­ing scores of Navy of­fi­cials. At the time, Gil­beau and fed­eral au­thor­i­ties re­vealed lit­tle about the ex­tent of his re­la­tion­ship with Fran­cis.

But in doc­u­ments filed last week in fed­eral court in San Diego, pros­e­cu­tors al­lege that Gil­beau, 56, be­came cor­rupted in 1997 when he and an­other Navy of­fi­cer met Fran­cis dur­ing a port visit to the In­done­sian is­land of Bali and suc­cumbed to the con­trac­tor’s of­fer of free ho­tel rooms, lav­ish din­ners and paid sex.

The re­la­tion­ship con­tin­ued on a spo­radic ba­sis un­til 2012, ac­cord­ing to pros­e­cu­tors, who said Fran­cis treated Gil­beau to nu­mer­ous evenings at karaoke bars and lux­ury restau­rants in Sin­ga­pore, of­ten capped off by assig­na­tions with pros­ti­tutes.

Pros­e­cu­tors al­lege that Gil­beau also pock­eted $40,000 in cash bribes from Fran­cis as part of a kick­back scheme to over­charge the Navy for pump­ing waste­water from its ships.

The rev­e­la­tions show the ori­gins and scope of the scan­dal — al­ready the big­gest in the Navy his­tory — stretch back seven years ear­lier than pre­vi­ously known. In cases against two dozen other de­fen­dants, pros­e­cu­tors have fo­cused on wrong­do­ing that be­gan in 2004 and lasted un­til Fran­cis’s ar­rest in 2013.

Au­thor­i­ties said last year that more than 200 peo­ple, in­clud­ing 30 ad­mi­rals, were un­der investigation for po­ten­tial crimes or eth­i­cal vi­o­la­tions. The new ev­i­dence sug­gests that the ros­ter of sus­pects has ex­panded and raises ques­tions about how far into the past au­thor­i­ties will reach to hold peo­ple ac­count­able.

Fran­cis, who is be­ing held in San Diego while he awaits sen­tenc­ing, has ad­mit­ted to goug­ing the Navy out of $35 mil­lion to re­sup­ply its ships in Asia. In­ves­ti­ga­tors sus­pect that the to­tal may have been far greater. His firm, Glenn De­fense Marine Asia, did busi­ness with the Navy for a quar­ter-cen­tury.

In court doc­u­ments, Gil­beau and his at­tor­neys said some of his ac­tions were in­flu­enced by in­juries he suf­fered dur­ing a mor­tar at­tack in Baghdad in 2007. He was awarded the Pur­ple Heart. His doc­tors said he later de­vel­oped se­vere de­pres­sion and post­trau­matic stress.

The ex­plo­sion left him with shrap­nel in his knee, back trauma, loss of hear­ing in one ear and a trau­matic brain in­jury.

Pros­e­cu­tors sug­gested that Gil­beau is ex­ag­ger­at­ing his con­di­tion. They said he be­gan ex­hibit­ing overt symp­toms of men­tal

Robert J. Gil­beau, writ­ing to a fed­eral judge who will sen­tence him in May

ill­ness only in 2013 — right af­ter news spread that Fran­cis and sev­eral Navy of­fi­cials had been ar­rested on cor­rup­tion charges.

At the time, Gil­beau held a key command job in Afghanistan over­see­ing the lo­gis­ti­cal with­drawal of U.S. troops. When Fran­cis’s ar­rest be­came pub­lic, Gil­beau be­gan act­ing ir­ra­tionally, showed signs of para­noia and be­came sui­ci­dal, ac­cord­ing to his med­i­cal records.

Pros­e­cu­tors said he sud­denly made “pon­der­ous, un­so­licited re­marks re­gard­ing Fran­cis, din­ners, and women” to col­leagues in the war zone and asked for help in eras­ing data from his elec­tronic de­vices. Mil­i­tary of­fi­cials seized his sidearm and evac­u­ated him to a hospi­tal in Ger­many for ob­ser­va­tion.

While Gil­beau’s doc­tors said his be­hav­ior could be traced to the mor­tar at­tack in­juries he had suf­fered in Iraq six years ear­lier, pros­e­cu­tors ar­gued that it stemmed from his “re­gret over be­ing caught.”

Gil­beau has been re­ceiv­ing in­ten­sive psy­chi­atric treat­ment ever since, ac­cord­ing to med­i­cal records filed by his at­tor­neys.

To ease his anx­i­ety, doc­tors pre­scribed a ther­apy dog, a fluffy white Cava­chon cross­breed named Bella. The 16-pound pooch, sport­ing a tiny Navy sweater, has ac­com­pa­nied Gil­beau into the court­room for hear­ings.

In a let­ter to U.S. Dis­trict Court Judge Ja­nis Sam­martino, who will sen­tence him next month, Gil­beau called him­self “a bro­ken and ashamed man” and said he was “deeply sorry” for making false state­ments to in­ves­ti­ga­tors. He did not ad­dress the al­le­ga­tions that he ac­cepted bribes or the ser­vices of pros­ti­tutes.

“I al­ways thought I was on the right side of the law and drove the best deals for our Navy and the Depart­ment of De­fense,” he wrote. “I apol­o­gize to the Navy, to my fam­ily and to this na­tion for the fact that my ac­tions caused great dam­age to the Navy’s rep­u­ta­tion.”

Un­der the terms of his plea deal, Gil­beau has agreed to pay $150,000 in fines and resti­tu­tion. Pros­e­cu­tors are press­ing for an 18-month prison sen­tence.

In court pa­pers, Gil­beau’s at­tor­neys say he should be spared any time be­hind bars. His lead at­tor­ney, David Benowitz, de­clined to com­ment.

The Navy al­lowed Gil­beau to re­tire in Oc­to­ber af­ter 33 years of ser­vice, but it re­duced him in rank from rear ad­mi­ral to cap­tain. It also dis­charged him un­der “less than hon­or­able” con­di­tions.

He is now re­ceiv­ing a mil­i­tary pen­sion of about $111,000 a year. But in court pa­pers, his at­tor­neys ar­gued that the de­mo­tion has cost him dearly. If he had been al­lowed to re­tain the rank of a one-star ad­mi­ral, he would be en­ti­tled to an ex­tra $692,000 in pen­sion pay­ments over 40 years.

Gil­beau also for­feited up to $2.4 mil­lion in dis­abil­ity ben­e­fits that the Depart­ment of Veterans Af­fairs would have had to pay him over the next four decades, ac­cord­ing to his at­tor­neys. His less-than-hon­or­able dis­charge from the Navy ren­dered him in­el­i­gi­ble.

Ac­cord­ing to court pa­pers filed by pros­e­cu­tors, Gil­beau was a sup­ply of­fi­cer as­signed to the USS Boxer, an am­phibi­ous as­sault ship, when he met Fran­cis in 1997. The doc­u­ments state that Fran­cis “plied Gil­beau and an­other U.S. Navy Of­fi­cer with ho­tel rooms, din­ners and the ser­vices of pros­ti­tutes” dur­ing a mul­ti­day port visit to Bali.

The trio met again six years later when Gil­beau and his friend were serv­ing on the USS Nimitz, an air­craft car­rier. Dur­ing a port call to Sin­ga­pore in Septem­ber 2003, Fran­cis took Gil­beau and the other of­fi­cer out to a night­club with pros­ti­tutes, ac­cord­ing to pros­e­cu­tors.

Fran­cis planned to fol­low the Nimitz to its next stop in Hong Kong, where he promised to en­ter­tain the two of­fi­cers again. “Look­ing for­ward to some ma­jor en­gage­ment in HK bach­e­lors pad,” he wrote them in an email.

In­stead, af­ter a last-minute sched­ule change, the Nimitz re­turned to Sin­ga­pore. In an email to Fran­cis, Gil­beau asked whether the con­trac­tor could ar­range to take the two of­fi­cers back to the same night­club. His friend, he ex­plained, wanted to see a “hand­ball player” they had met dur­ing their last time in Sin­ga­pore — a woman whom pros­e­cu­tors de­scribed as “a par­tic­u­larly mem­o­rable pros­ti­tute.”

Fran­cis en­thu­si­as­ti­cally agreed. “The Kahuna above has heard our prayers, will be standin by to Wel­come you all back home to Papa Leonard soon,” he emailed. “The hand­ball player is wait­ing ea­gerly to play.”

Dur­ing the same 2003 port visit, pros­e­cu­tors al­lege, Fran­cis and Gil­beau con­spired to over­charge the Navy for ser­vices pro­vided to the Nimitz. In­voices show that Fran­cis’s firm billed the Navy for pump­ing about 450,000 gal­lons of sewage and waste­water from the Nimitz over four days at about triple the usual amount.

Pros­e­cu­tors con­tend that in ex­change for ap­prov­ing the in­voices, Gil­beau ac­cepted about $40,000 in cash kick­backs from Fran­cis. (Gil­beau has pre­vi­ously de­nied re­ceiv­ing money from the con­trac­tor.)

Their re­la­tion­ship re­sumed in 2005 when Gil­beau re­turned to Sin­ga­pore to help co­or­di­nate the Navy’s tsunami re­lief ef­forts in the re­gion.

Pros­e­cu­tors al­lege that Gil­beau, who dubbed him­self “Tsunami Bob,” went to din­ner with Fran­cis and par­tied with him at karaoke bars on three or four oc­ca­sions. In ad­di­tion, they al­lege that Fran­cis, who called Gil­beau “Crazy Bob” or “Casanova,” paid for him to stay at the Sin­ga­pore Mar­riott and other ho­tels sev­eral times.

Fran­cis pro­vided pros­ti­tutes to dozens of Navy of­fi­cials over the years and kept metic­u­lous notes about the sailors’ phys­i­cal de­sires so he could cater to them, ac­cord­ing to court records and in­ter­views with peo­ple fa­mil­iar with his meth­ods.

In Gil­beau’s case, the de­fense con­trac­tor knew that the ad­mi­ral liked to have sex with Viet­namese women — two at a time — so he sup­plied him with pairs of pros­ti­tutes on at least three oc­ca­sions, ac­cord­ing to pros­e­cu­tors.

For ex­am­ple, in De­cem­ber 2010, Fran­cis took Gil­beau out for din­ner, drinks and karaoke in Sin­ga­pore — and then paid for him to spend the night in a ho­tel suite with two pros­ti­tutes, pros­e­cu­tors al­lege.

The next day, the de­fense con­trac­tor emailed the ad­mi­ral to ask how the evening had gone.

“Very nice,” Gil­beau replied.

“I al­ways thought I was on the right side of the law and drove the best deals for our Navy and the Depart­ment of De­fense.”

LENNY IGNELZI/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Robert J. Gil­beau, who pleaded guilty last June in a Navy cor­rup­tion scan­dal, be­gan ac­cept­ing gifts and pros­ti­tutes from a con­trac­tor seven years ear­lier than thought, pros­e­cu­tors al­lege in new doc­u­ments.

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