“How is this not a movie?”
This is the common response when people learn about the US Navy’s Fat Leonard scandal. The high stakes drama and salacious details do seem made for the silver screen, but what’s more surprising is how many people — among them Hill staff, Pentagon budget experts, and other defense policy participants — are unaware of the crimes that proliferated up and down the ranks of the 7th Fleet less than a decade ago. That military leaders, Congress, and the public seem to have forgotten this affair that took down rising leaders, defrauded the US government, and undermined our national security is at least as troubling as the events themselves.
Here’s the short version of events:
The US Navy contracted with Glenn Marine Group (GMG), a ship husbanding company that assisted the Navy with port security, repairs, fueling, restocking and other dockside needs. The president of GMG, Francis Leonard (aka Fat Leonard), overbilled the Navy for things like fresh water and redirected carrier movements to ports where he could charge the most. He bribed officers with $18,000 meals and extravagant hotel stays, prostitutes, parties, cash, and luxury goods. He gained access to sensitive information and paid off people in roles who could help avoid investigations into his activities. Only after the US Department of Justice stepped in — to investigate a suspected mole within the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) who was tipping off Leonard — did the enterprise start to unravel.
In 2013, federal agents arrested Leonard in San Diego and charged another 33 people with various crimes, though Leonard’s activities cast a much wider net. In 2018, the Washington Post reported that: “According to the Navy, an additional 550 active-duty and retired military personnel — including about 60 admirals — have come under scrutiny for possible violations of military law or ethics rules.”
Author(s): Nan Swift
Publication Date: 18 March 2022
Publication Site: Inkstick Media