Former Navy Public Affairs Officer Pleads Guilty, Retired Master Chief Gets Prison Time in ‘Fat Leonard’ Investigation

November 13, 2018 9:52 PM
Undated photo of Leonard Francis

A former Navy public affairs officer pleaded guilty to a conflict-of-interest charge on Tuesday, admitting to a federal judge in San Diego his role in the continuing “Fat Leonard” Navy corruption investigation.

Retired Capt. Jeffrey Breslau, 52, of Cumming, Ga., admitted that he was paid about $65,000 for public-relations consulting services from Leonard Glenn Francis, the indicted owner and chief executive of Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California. Breslau submitted his guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino in San Diego, and he is scheduled to return for a pre-sentencing hearing on Feb. 8, according to online federal court records.

Also on Tuesday, retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Ricarte Icmat David, 62, appeared before Judge Sammartino and was sentenced to 17 months in prison. David, of Concepcion, Philippines, had pleaded guilty in September to corruption conspiracy charges and admitted to fraud by collecting bribes including $40,000 in cash and gifts from Francis in return for inflating invoices for services that GDMA never provided, according to court documents. David must pay $30,000 in restitution and will have one year of supervised release after completing his prison sentence, officials said.

Breslau and David are the latest among dozens of Navy officials caught in the GDMA bribery and fraud scandal.

Francis’ Singapore-based company received contracts to manage husbanding services, from food to trash, for Navy ships during port visits in the Asia-Pacific region. Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 to bribery and fraud charges, admitting a decade-long conspiracy with “tens of millions of dollars in fraud and millions of dollars in bribes and lavish gifts, including luxury travel, airline upgrades, five-star hotel accommodations, top-shelf alcohol, the services of prostitutes, Cuban cigars, Kobe beef, and Spanish suckling pigs,” prosecutors said in the announcement.

Breslau, who until mid-2012 had served as U.S. Pacific Fleet’s director of public affairs in Hawaii, was charged in late September with “knowingly and willfully” helping Francis from March 2012 to Sept. 17, 2013, according to court documents. In August 2012, he got orders to command the Joint Public Affairs Support Element in Norfolk, Va., where he led joint crisis communications teams until July 2014.

Breslau admitted to helping Francis “with public relations consulting services, including providing advice on how to respond to issues and controversies related to Francis’s ship husbanding business with the U.S. Navy,” federal prosecutors said in the announcement. “These included issues related to port visit costs, allegations of malfeasance such as the unauthorized dumping of waste, disputes with competitors, and issues with Pacific Fleet and contracting personnel.

“During the course of his consulting agreement with Francis, Breslau authored, reviewed, or edited at least 33 separate documents; authored at least 135 emails providing advice to Francis; provided at least 14 instances of ‘talking points’ in advance of meetings between Francis and high ranking U.S. Navy personnel; and ‘ghostwrote’ numerous emails on Francis’s behalf to be transmitted to U.S. Navy personnel. During the course of this consulting agreement, Francis paid Breslau approximately $65,000 without Breslau disclosing the agreement to the U.S. Navy.”

So far, federal prosecutors have charged 33 individuals, including retired flag and senior officials, with 22 of them pleading guilty, officials said Tuesday.

“Breslau and David selfishly traded on their revered positions of trust in exchange for cash payments and entertainment expenses,” Adam Braverman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District, said in the announcement. “We will vigorously prosecute any public official who puts his own selfish personal interests ahead of the interests of the Navy and our nation.”

“These service members’ actions should serve as a deterrent to anyone trying to defraud the government for personal gain. NCIS will pursue investigations on all cases involving economic crime committed against the Department of the Navy,” added Andrew Traver, director of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service director.

Gidget Fuentes

Gidget Fuentes

Gidget Fuentes is a freelance writer based in San Diego, Calif. She has spent more than 20 years reporting extensively on the Marine Corps and the Navy, including West Coast commands and Pacific regional issues.

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