Where can you find pleasure, search the world for treasure, learn science, technology, and, um, possibly accept bribes of prostitutes, plane tickets and millions of dollars? In the Navy!
Three officers, Cmdr. Mark Vannak Khem Misiewicz, Cmdr. Jose Luis Sanchez, and Naval Criminal Investigative Service Supervisory Special Agent John Bertrand Beliveau II — appeared in court on Friday to defend themselves against the bribery allegations. All were highly-respected within the Navy — Believeau was even named the 2010 NCIS agent of the year.
Also on Friday, two admirals — director of Naval intelligence Vice Adm. Ted Branch and director of intelligence operations Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless — were put on leave and stripped of their ability to access classified materials.
The admirals are being investigated for "illegal and improper relations" with a Malaysian contractor, who is at the heart of the ongoing scandal.
According to a Navy press release, the admirals' investigation “involves inappropriate conduct prior to their current assignments and flag officer rank," and “there is no indication… that in either case there was any breach of classified information.”
The lower-level officers are all accused of accepting cash, women, and luxury goods from Leonard Francis, a 350-pound Malaysian contractor also known as "Fat Leonard." In exchange for the gifts, prosecutors say the officers provided him with favors and classified information that he used to draw Navy ships to ports he controlled in Thailand, overcharging millions of dollars in the process.
According to NBC, it all began in 2009 when Sanchez began communicating with Francis about a trip he planned to take to Kuala Lumpur with his "Wolf Pack" of friends.
Sanchez asked Francis for pictures of prostitutes for "motivation," and later sent Francis a Facebook message saying, "Yummy... daddy like." They even had pet names for one another — Sanchez called Francis "Lion King," and "Boss," and Francis called Sanchez "Brudda."
Prosecutors say Francis also provided them with Lady GaGa and Lion King tickets, $100,000 cash payments, and frequently socialized with officers at Navy events.
“This is also a corporate culture kind of thing, where we in the Navy collectively got lazy because this guy could provide anything you needed, even if it was at a high price,” said one Navy captain who retired recently and would speak only on the condition of anonymity because of continuing ties to the Navy.
The three officers have pled not guilty; the admirals have not been criminally charged.
[image via AP]