By Ashley Nation
At the end of June 2022, four former U.S. Naval officers were convicted of bribery, conspiracy, and fraud in connection to the “Fat Leonard” scandal. Over the course of nine years, 33 Naval officials have been found or pleaded guilty to taking bribes from Leonard Francis (the crime’s master puppeteer). This is everything you need to know concerning the Navy’s worst corruption scandal in history.

Suggested read:

The Baffling Case Around the Death of Enrique Roman-Martinez

What Is “Fat Leonard”?

“Fat Leonard” is not a what but rather a who. At the heart of this trial is Leonard Glenn Francis — the man who bribed dozens of decorated Navy officers for classified information about the movement of U.S. ships and submarines. Why? The simple answer is money. Officers of the United States Seventh Fleet were showered with half a million dollars in cash plus lavish trips, expensive meals, and prostitutes. In exchange, they committed whatever violations Francis asked of them. This included revealing Naval secrets and redirecting ships to the Southeast Asia ports controlled by Francis and his company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia. This allowed him to severely overcharge for his services, such as fuel, security, and supplies. During the “Fat Leonard” trial, Francis openly admitted to defrauding the Navy of over 35 million dollars.

More Inside the Mind of Leonard

Leonard Francis, better known as Fat Leonard, became the most powerful military contractor in the Pacific. A mafia is any organized group using extortion and other criminal methods to achieve a desired goal, much like Fat Leonard and his crew of turned Navy officials. Clearly a man of great ego, Leonard appears on his own podcast show to tell his side of the story with Project Brazen in 2021. In episode one of the Fat Leonard podcast, just nine seconds in, Leonard states that “Everybody has their needs. I gave them that sense of confidence and I also provided them what they wanted. It was safe and they could trust me. I never let them down. I played professional. I played sexual. Whatever you needed. Anything.” He expressed that his men had dark sides of themselves that needed to be fed and beasts that needed to come out. He understood that. Leonard spared no expense to give these Navy officers the ultimate lifestyle. He described in great detail an after-party he hosted at the $4,000-a-night MacArthur Suite at the Manila Hotel. The suite was stocked with $10,000 bottles (yes, plural) of Dom Pérignon champagne. He fed them with lobster and caviar and satisfied their other appetites with sex workers. After Leonard was caught and indicted in March of 2017, he spent years in jail. He’s since been moved to house arrest and awaits sentencing, which is scheduled for October of 2022. To this, Leonard states he “just felt very betrayed.” In Fat Leonard’s eyes, “there was no blood spilt,” and thus, he “never brought any harm to the United States.” Leonard simply sees himself as a great influencer and far from criminal status. The reality is that both are true, though the word “great” is a matter of debate.

Fat Leonard Trial Update

Most recently, Captains David Newland, James Dolan, and David Lausman, as well as former Commander Mario Herrera, were convicted of conspiracy to commit bribery, receiving bribes, and conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud. There was a fifth defendant, former Admiral Bruce Loveless, against whom the jury reached no verdict. Just a few months prior, Commander Stephen Shedd from San Diego pleaded guilty and admitted that he and eight other Navy members “received more than $250,000 in meals, entertainment, travel and hotel expenses, gifts, cash and the services of prostitutes” from Leonard Francis. In response to this case, U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said, “He was one of the many whose allegiance was switched from the Navy to Leonard Francis.” Shedd is scheduled to be sentenced on July 21, 2022. These men were the last of 34 defendants to stand trial on charges brought on by the Fat Leonard Navy scandal.

The End of the Fat Leonard Scandal

Nine years later, the Fat Leonard Case is finally coming to a close. What the Navy was expecting to be a clear-cut case with a few fake invoices turned out to be a full-fledged breach of national security for the U.S. Navy. Leonard, at the very least, got access to ship and submarine schedules and the position of ballistic missile defenses. This corruption scandal reminds us of the weaknesses of man and the undeniable powers of money and sex. Retired Navy Captain Ron Carr says a dark trail will forever follow everyone who served in the Pacific during the 2000s and early 2010s. We can only hope that the happenings of the “Fat Leonard” case push the Navy to change a part of its culture that made room for such exploitation.

Related read:

Navy Climate Action Plan Response Training Now Underway

Image: Elyse Samuels/TWP



fat leonard
fat leonard case

Get the latest news and military discounts