Two flag officers have been added to the growing list of Navy officials allegedly connected to a large-scale bribery scheme in Asia.
The Navy on Friday announced that Vice Adm. Ted Branch, director of Naval Intelligence, and Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless, director of Intelligence Operations, are under investigation for “inappropriate conduct” stemming from their relationships with Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd. and its CEO Leonard Francis, a larger-than-life character well known in Navy circles and nicknamed “Fat Leonard.”
“The allegations against Admirals Branch and Loveless involve inappropriate conduct prior to their current assignments and flag officer rank,” said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Navy’s chief of information, in an emailed statement. “There is no indication, nor do the allegations suggest, that in either case there was any breach of classified information.”
In light of the investigation, however, the Navy has suspended the flag officers’ access to classified materials.
“The suspension was deemed prudent given the sensitive nature their current duties and to protect and support the integrity of the investigative process.”
Kirby stressed that neither man has been charged.
“Both men retain their rank and security clearance,” Kirby said. “They are on temporary leave.”
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is continuing its investigation, which began in 2010. Three Navy officials already face charges.
On Wednesday, authorities arrested Cmdr. Jose Luis Sanchez. Sanchez is accused of accepting prostitutes, $100,000 cash, and other bribes from Francis, the Associated Press reported.
Prosecutors say in exchange, Sanchez passed on classified U.S. Navy information to the Malaysian contractor, whose company has serviced Navy ships in the Pacific for 25 years and is accused of overbilling the Pentagon by millions.
Cmdr. Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz — who like Sanchez, is accused of giving Francis’ company confidential information about Navy ship routes.
And a senior Navy investigator, John Beliveau II. Prosecutors allege in a criminal complaint that Beliveau, 44, kept Francis abreast of the bribery probe and advised him on how to respond in exchange for such things as prostitution services.
GDMA overcharged the Navy millions of dollars for fuel, food and other services it provided, and invented tariffs by using phony port authorities, prosecutors say.
Misiewicz and Francis moved Navy vessels like chess pieces, diverting aircraft carriers, destroyers and other ships to Asian ports with lax oversight where Francis could inflate costs, the criminal complaint alleges.
Francis, 49, was arrested in San Diego in September. A few weeks later, authorities arrested his company’s general manager of global government contracts, Alex Wisidagama, 40.
Misiewicz, Beliveau, Francis and Wisidagama have pleaded not guilty. Their defense attorneys declined to comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.