SAN DIEGO (CN) – A federal judge on Wednesday sentenced the only active-duty U.S. Navy admiral ever convicted of a federal crime to 18 months in prison for his role in a decades-long bribery and fraud scheme.
U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino sentenced U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Robert Gilbeau to prison Wednesday after he pleaded guilty last June to making false statements to federal investigators who were investigating the 20-year relationship between Gilbeau and foreign defense contractor Leonard Francis, a foreign defense contractor.
“You did everything possible to hide and conceal your relationship with Leonard Francis and in the process you tried to thwart the investigation,” Sammartino said during the sentencing hearing. “You violated the law. You dishonored your shipmates, the Navy and the United States of America.”
Francis, the owner of a Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia, gave several expensive gifts and cash to Gilbeau over the course of their 20-year relationship, which included several late-night parties replete with karaoke bars, nightclubs, fine dining, expensive hotel rooms and prostitutes, according to a statement from U.S. Attorney Alana Robinson.
In exchange for these gifts, Gilbeau signed off on inflated bills from Francis’s company, which overcharged the Navy and American taxpayers by significant amounts, the release states. Glenn Defense Marine Asia provided support services to the U.S. Navy such as trash and sewage removal, food, water, security and fuel to its fleet of ships in the Pacific.
“When tempted by parties and prostitutes, one of our most respected leaders chose karaoke over character, and coverup over confession, and in doing so he forever tarnished the reputation of a revered institution,” Robinson said.
Gilbeau’s attempt to cover up the illicit dealings played a significant role in his prison sentence, according Robinson.
When the massive corruption scandal was initially discovered in 2013, Gibeau repeatedly lied to investigators from Defense Criminal Investigative Service and Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Furthermore, when Francis and many of his associates were arrested, also in 2013, Gilbeau destroyed records including receipts and computer files in an attempt to cover up his crimes, Robinson said.
Gilbeau first met Francis in 1997, when the former served aboard the USS Boxer. During a port visit to Bali, Indonesia, Francis provided Gilbeau and another naval officer with hotel rooms, dinners and prostitutes, according to the sentencing memo.
The pair became reacquainted five years later, when Gilbeau was serving aboard the USS Nimitz. Francis again regaled the naval officer with gifts, including hotel rooms and prostitutes.
After Gilbeau ascended to a position where he could authorize Naval expenditures, he began to authorize invoices related to Francis’s company, including a bill for sewage removal that was the highest in the history of the USS Nimitz.
Gilbeau received more than $40,000 in kickbacks in relation to the sewage removal operation from the ship, which was moored in the waters off Singapore.
In 2010, after Gilbeau had been promoted to rear admiral, he dined on Francis’ dime at the Hyatt Hotel in Singapore and was driven by Francis and two prostitutes from Vietnam to an expensive hotel.
Things began to unravel in 2012, when Gilbeau became aware that Francis was under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service for bribery and fraud.
As part of the investigation, Gilbeau was asked if he’d had contact or received gifts from Francis – questions he consistently denied.
In subsequent interviews, he admitted to meeting Francis but falsely said he had always paid for his half of the dinner.
During a stint in Afghanistan in 2013, Gilbeau grew increasingly paranoid and erratic, asking subordinate officers for advice as to how to scrub computer files, demanding people remove batteries during conversations and other bizarre behavior. He removed his aides’ access to his email and began the destruction of paper and electronic records.
He was arrested in 2016.
“Today, Your Honor, is a solemn and tragic day for Bob Gilbeau, his family and friends, but also for the United States Navy, and our nation,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Pletcher told the court during Wednesday’s hearing. “Beyond the tragedy, today is also a day of great importance, as one of finality for Mr. Gilbeau; one of healing for the U.S. Navy; and more broadly, it is one of great importance for our constitutional democracy.”