The Navy on Saturday suspended access to classified material for two admirals who run Navy intelligence operations because of their alleged ties to the head of a Singapore-based company at the center of a widening Navy scandal.
The unusual restrictions were placed upon Vice Adm. Ted Branch, director of Naval Intelligence, and Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless, head of Navy intelligence operations, because of their alleged “improper relations” with Leonard Francis, CEO of Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), said Rear Adm. John F. Kirby, Navy chief of information.
“The suspension was deemed prudent given the sensitive nature of their current duties and to protect and support the integrity of the investigative process,” Kirby said.
The measures against the admirals were taken three days after Cmdr. Jose Luis Sanchez appeared in federal court in Florida on charges of having accepted $100,000 in bribes, luxury trips and sessions with prostitutes from Francis.
Francis was arrested Sept. 16 in San Diego. His firm provides fuel, food, water, cleaning and other services to Navy ships throughout Asia and in California.
Sanchez was the third Navy officer charged in the case. They allegedly helped Francis’ company get Navy contracts and provided him sensitive information in exchange for the bribes.
Kirby said the alleged improper behavior of Branch and Loveless occurred when they held lower officer ranks. He stressed that they have not been charged with any crime and retain their current ranks and security clearances, though both men are on temporary leave.
“There is no indication, nor do the allegations suggest, that in either case there was any breach of classified information,” Kirby said.
Before the arrest of Sanchez, 41, Cmdr. Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz, 46, and Naval Criminal Investigative Service Supervisory Special Agent John Bertrand Beliveau II, 44, were charged separately in connection with the bribery allegations.
"As described in the corruption charges unsealed today, senior officials with the United States Navy abused their trusted positions as leaders in our armed forces by peddling favorable treatment -- and even classified government information -- for their personal benefit," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman said Wednesday.
Sanchez received cash payments totaling $100,000, luxury trips and sessions with prostitutes in exchange for giving Francis sensitive Navy information and recommending his company to Pentagon colleagues, according to the criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday.
In a related case, Francis and one of his firm's executives, Alex Wisidagama, have been charged with participating in a scheme to overbill the Navy by submitting phony invoices for millions of dollars in services provided in ports throughout Southeast Asia, the Justice Department said.
Beliveau, the NSIS special agent, allegedly provided Francis with reports of investigations into his firm's billing practices.
Sanchez and Francis communicated regularly via email and Facebook, according to the criminal complaint. Sanchez called Francis "Lion King" and "Boss," while Francis called Sanchez "brudda."
Francis allegedly hired female escorts for Sanchez and his friends on multiple occasions.
In one email to a prostitute, Francis wrote, "Hey Love Jose is in Manila at the DIAMOND Hotel go and see him he needs some love asap," according to the complaint.
In another email exchange, Francis and Sanchez discussed a forthcoming pleasure trip to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore with Navy friends, the complaint said.
When Sanchez requested prostitutes for "motivation," Francis replied: "J, got it we will hook up after the FLAG dinner, will arrange a next for you guys and some birds [women]," according to the criminal complaint.
In a business deal arranged between Francis and Sanchez, the USS Mustin purchased fuel from GDMA during a port call in Laem Chabang, Thailand, paying more than $1 million -- more than twice as much as the fuel should have cost, the complain said.
The case is based on a joint investigation by NCIS, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Defense Contract Audit Agency and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The Royal Thai Police and Singapore's Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau provided assistance, the Justice Department said.