Another Navy Officer Pleads Guilty in Widening Corruption Investigation

SAN DIEGO ( The San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS) -

A retired Navy captain who was the lead public affairs officer for the U.S. Pacific Fleet pleaded guilty this past week to secretly providing public relations advice to corrupt Malaysian contractor Leonard Glenn “Fat Leonard” Francis, becoming the latest officer caught in a long-running corruption investigation.

The plea from Capt. Jeffrey Breslau, 52, not only adds another name to the lengthy list of current and former Navy officers and officials charged in the scheme, it also reveals yet another aspect of Navy operations that Francis corrupted — to the point where the officer was effectively working for Francis.

Breslau provided advice and help to Francis on how to respond to investigations that the Navy was conducting of Francis’s company, according to federal prosecutors in San Diego.

Breslau was the director of public affairs for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, according to federal prosecutors in San Diego. Yet while he did public relations work for the fleet, for more than a year from March 2012 to September 2013, he worked secretly for Francis — advising him on how best to respond to what was then a growing number of inquiries about Francis’ operation from inside the Navy.

By then Navy investigators were on to Francis’ years-long corruption scheme, in which he bribed Navy officers and civilians with cash, hotel rooms, travel and other gifts.

In exchange, the Navy officials provided Francis with information on upcoming port stays for Navy ships, used their influence to try to steer visits to ports where Francis controlled ship-servicing operations, bad-mouthed competitors of Francis’s company Glenn Defense Marine Asia and helped him push through inflated or fake invoices for the services his company provided.

Breslau’s plea agreement said Francis paid him $65,000 for consulting services. Among the issues he consulted on were port-visit costs the Navy was billed for by Francis’ company, disputes with competitors and controversies over the illegal dumping of waste in the ocean.

The plea agreement itemized some of the work Breslau did for Francis, including reviewing or editing 33 documents, writing 135 emails that provided “substantive advice” to the contractor, drawing up talking points for meetings with Navy officials 14 separate times and ghostwriting emails for Francis sent to Navy personnel.

Breslau pleaded guilty to one charge of criminal conflict of interest and is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 9. He had initially been charged on Sept. 28 in federal court in San Diego and has been free on bond since. Prosecutors said in the plea agreement that the “breadth and scope” of his conduct damaged the service.

Breslau’s role on Francis’ payroll as a public relations adviser further outlines the extent of Francis’ network of corruption that spread throughout the Navy’s Seventh Fleet. He had an investigator with the Navy Criminal Investigative Services who gave him confidential files detailing ongoing investigations of Francis, logistics officers who told him about Navy efforts to control costs and how to evade them, and contracting officers who steered work to GDMA.

So far, 33 people have been charged in the scheme and 22, — including Francis — have pleaded guilty. Francis was arrested five years ago and since then has been cooperating with prosecutors as they have unraveled his network.

Francis has admitted to overbilling the Navy some $35 million for services that his company provided military ships, such as trash removal, water and security.