Navy Commander Sentenced in ‘Fat Leonard’ Bribery Scandal

SAN DIEGO (CN) – A federal judge said a Navy commander had betrayed the Navy, himself and his country before sentencing him to 18 months in prison on Friday for his part in the “Fat Leonard” Navy bribery scandal.

In addition to the prison time, Bobby Pitts also received three years supervised release from U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino. He must also pay $7,500 in restitution and a $15,000 fine for defrauding the United States.

Pitts was the officer in charge of the U.S. Navy’s Fleet Industrial Supply Command in Singapore from August 2009 to May 2011. He oversaw contracts of husbanding services – such as water, food, trash and waste removal – for the Navy’s Seventh Fleet.

Pitts pleaded guilty in August to sharing information with defense contractor Leonard “Fat Leonard” Glenn Francis, owner of Glenn Defense Marine Asia. Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 to bribery and fraud charges for engaging in a decade-long conspiracy involving scores of U.S. Navy officials and tens of millions of dollars in bribes and gifts in exchange for port services contracts.

Francis bribed Navy officials with lavish dinners, prostitutes, luxury travel and Cuban cigars, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Nearly 20 defendants charged in the conspiracy have pleaded guilty.

Pitts shared an internal Navy email with Francis from 2010 which indicated Francis was being investigated for over-billing the U.S. Navy on ship husbanding contracts.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Pletcher said Friday Pitts’ and his Navy colleagues’ actions to protect Francis and tip him off to an investigation is what allowed Francis to say “one-step ahead.”

“He isn’t a low-level contracting employee, he’s the officer in charge,” Pletcher said at the Friday hearing, raising his voice.

“The Navy gave him everything he’s got, the ability to stand in the position he is. It gave him power and command; it gave him a world view.”

Pletcher said Pitts forwarded the email indicating Francis was being investigated to his personal email account. He then forwarded it to a Marine Asia representative.

But Pitts’ attorney Richard Boesen said Francis was “well aware” of the ongoing investigation before Pitts shared the email, as he had two moles who gave him information. He said Pitts “gave him the heads-up” by sending the internal Navy email to Francis so he could “get these conflicts resolved so we can move ahead without these problems.”

Boesen compared Francis to a pedophile, saying he “groomed” Pitts and other Navy officers involved in the conspiracy, but disputed Pitts had accepted the “gift” of a Filipino prostitute from Francis after meeting at a high-end hotel. He said Pitts “didn’t know he had utilized the services of a prostitute paid for by Mr. Francis” and that there were no records of such a transaction, which Francis was known to “meticulously” keep.

Pitts – who remains on active duty – apologized to the court, saying he was “ashamed and embarrassed to be here,” and that his successful Navy career had been “deeply affected.” The 48-year-old said he plans to retire early to spend more time with his young daughters were derailed by the scandal.

Sammartino declined to exercise discretion when handing down Pitts’ sentence, finding the government’s recommended sentencing range appropriate.

“It’s not a happy day for the Navy or for you,” Sammartino said.

“You betrayed your obligation and in doing so betrayed the Navy and yourself, and, I would suggest, this country.”

Pitts was ordered to self-surrender by Feb. 23, 2018.

 

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