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Navy commander pleads guilty in 'Fat Leonard' bribery scandal

A Navy commander who was one of the last holdouts fighting bribery charges in the “Fat Leonard” scandal has pleaded guilty, admitting to exchanging confidential military information for things such as prostitutes and lavish vacations.

Michael Misiewicz also was one of the highest-ranking officials to be implicated in the scandal. He pleaded guilty in San Diego federal court Thursday to conspiracy to commit bribery and bribery of a public official. He faces up to 20 years in prison when sentenced April 29.

Misiewicz was the eighth person to plead guilty in the still-unfolding case, leaving one defendant -- Paul Simpkins, a former Department of Defense official who once oversaw Navy contracts in Southeast Asia -- contesting a bribery charge.

Prosecutors said more Navy personnel and employees still could be targeted for improper dealings with longtime contractor “Fat Leonard” Glenn Francis, the Malaysian businessman accused of bilking the Navy out of about $20 million over the years. Francis, who has pleaded guilty, is cooperating with authorities.

Misiewicz managed operations on the Blue Ridge, the flagship of the Navy’s 7th Fleet, and before that served aboard the destroyer Mustin. He first met representatives of Francis’ company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia, in 2010, according to his plea agreement. The Singapore-based business provides various services and goods for visiting ships and submarines, including trash removal, water, security and food.

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Misiewicz smuggled confidential ship schedules to Francis and influenced which ports the ships would visit to bolster the contractor’s business, the plea agreement said. Among the many ship schedules that Francis received was one that contained precise information related to the Navy’s ballistic missile defense operations in the Pacific.

In a 2011 email, Misiewicz admitted to advising Francis that the aircraft carrier John C. Stennis was adding a day to its port visit in Port Klang, Malaysia, one of Glenn Defense Marine Asia’s ports. “See, you ask I deliver! LoL!” Misiewicz wrote.

In 2012, Francis asked if Misiewicz would use his influence to “swing” the aircraft carrier George Washington to Port Klang instead of Singapore, according to an email. In exchange, the plea agreement said, Misiewicz was showered with gifts: entertainment expenses, luxury hotel stays in Southeast Asia, a designer purse for his wife and travel costs for family members.

The total loss attributed to Misiewicz’s misconduct was at least $95,000, prosecutors said. He likely will be ordered to pay restitution to the Navy.

In a statement, defense attorneys Mark Adams and Wendy Gerboth said that “from the beginning of this case, Cmdr. Misiewicz has accepted personal responsibility. He has demonstrated remorse for the regrettable choices he made in 2011 and 2012.

“Today, Cmdr. Misiewicz again takes responsibility for his actions in this public forum. He is extremely sorry for the harm he has caused to his family, the United States Navy and this great country.”

kristina.davis@sduniontribune.com

Davis writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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