Navy bribery scandal figure pleads guilty

Navy bribery scandal figure pleads guilty
Blue Ridge, command ship of the U.S. 7th Fleet, was one of the ships rerouted in the bribery, officials said. Two people have now pleaded guilty in the scandal. (U.S. Navy)

SAN DIEGO -- A second person pleaded guilty Tuesday to being part of a bribery conspiracy involving lucrative contracts to service U.S. Navy ships in the Asia-Pacific region.

Alex Wisidagama, 40, a resident of Singapore, pleaded guilty in federal court to scheming to defraud the U.S. into overpaying at least $20 million for supplies and services. He faces a maximum 10 years in prison when sentenced.
Wisidagama is a former executive with Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia, whose owner, Leonard Glenn Francis, is the key figure in the case. Wisidagama is Francis' cousin.

John Bertrand Beliveau, 44, a onetime senior agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, pleaded guilty in December to leaking confidential documents to Francis about an investigation involving Francis that began in 2010 and then tutoring him on how to avoid giving incriminating statements.

Francis is charged with bribing Beliveau and two Navy officers with money, first-class travel arrangements, entertainment tickets and prostitutes in exchange for inside information about the movement of Navy ships.

"Wisidagama and others were creative, deceitful and audacious in their efforts to manipulate the Navy and steal millions of dollars from U.S. taxpayers," said U.S. Atty. Laura Duffy.

The Navy officers allegedly ordered ships steered toward ports where Francis' firm had an office. Francis' firm then submitted bills that were padded or included services never rendered, according to the indictments.

The charges do not allege that the NCIS agent or the two Navy officers knew the bills were fraudulent.

The two officers, Cmdrs. Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz, 46, and Jose Luis Sanchez, 41, were on the staff of the Japan-based 7th Fleet and privy to inside information about the movement of ships.

Among the ships that were rerouted at Francis' request were two carriers and the 7th Fleet command ship Blue Ridge, according to prosecutors.

Francis remains in federal prison in downtown San Diego, awaiting trial.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has ordered a review of the Navy's contracting process for "husbanding services" for deployed ships.

For more than two decades, Francis' firm supplied water, fuel, food, garbage and waste removal, tugboats, fenders and other items for Navy ships. Amid the scandal, the Navy has cancelled any contracts.

In 2010, Navy officials became suspicious that some of the bills submitted by Francis' firm from Thailand were padded.

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