Six years after pleading guilty and admitting he took “lavish” bribes from a foreign defense contractor, a retired Navy captain was sentenced Thursday to 30 months in federal prison, U.S. prosecutors in San Diego, Calif., announced this week.
Capt. Jesus Vasquez Cantu, 64, is the latest former U.S. 7th Fleet official to be sentenced for conspiracy to commit bribery as part of the long-running corruption and bribery investigation centered on Leonard Glenn Francis and his ship husbanding firm, Glenn Defense Marine Asia.
In pleading guilty, Cantu, of Silverdale, Wash., admitted that in 2012 and 2013 he accepted drinks and dinners at posh restaurants, bars and nightclubs as well as hotel rooms and prostitutes, all paid for by Francis. At the time, he was the deputy commander of Military Sealift Command Far East in Singapore, home to Francis and GDMA.
“Cantu admitted that in return for these luxuries, he provided proprietary U.S. Navy information to Francis, and that he abused his power and influence to help Francis and his company,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California said in a statement.
But Cantu’s relationship with Francis began years earlier, in 2007, when he was the assistant chief of staff for logistics for 7th Fleet aboard the command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) and joined in the bribery conspiracy with Francis by accepting “an ongoing stream” of bribes. “Cantu entered a den of corruption and in the process repudiated his oath and betrayed the sacred trust placed in him by the American people,” U.S Attorney Randy Grossman said in the statement.
U.S. District Court Judge Janis Sammartino, in issuing the sentence, ordered Cantu to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on May 15. The former captain also was fined $75,000 and ordered to pay $100,000 in restitution, and he will be under supervised release for three years after his prison sentence.
Naval Criminal Investigative Service Director Omar Lopez said Cantu “betrayed his oath to his country and abused his position with the Navy by accepting lavish gifts from the Singapore-based GDMA, including hotel rooms, entertainment, alcohol and the services of prostitutes, in exchange for divulging sensitive information that helped Leonard Francis defraud the United States.”
Cantu originally was supposed to be sentenced in November 2017. Still, the hearing was rescheduled numerous times by the court, which has overseen nearly three dozen cases involving co-conspirators and Francis.
Francis, who along with GDMA pleaded guilty in 2015, is the convicted mastermind of the multimillion-dollar Navy corruption case. He fled court-ordered home detention last year just weeks before he was to be sentenced in court, but he was detained 16 days later in Venezuela as he tried to board a plane to Russia. It’s unclear if and when he will be extradited to U.S. custody.
Cantu is the latest former 7th Fleet official and admitted co-conspirator to be sentenced in the so-called “Fat Leonard” prosecution led by the U.S. attorney’s office in San Diego and long-running investigation by NCIS, Defense Criminal Investigative Service and Defense Contract Audit Agency.
At least one case is pending sentencing. Former Cmdr. Jose Luis Sanchez pleaded guilty in 2015, admitting he shared classified ship routes and other sensitive Navy information with Francis on seven occasions, actions to help steer husbanding contracts to his company. Sanchez’s sentencing hearing has been delayed and rescheduled numerous times, according to court records. Sammartino, the judge in his case, agreed earlier this month to reschedule his sentencing hearing to May 23, court records show.
Sanchez, in his plea agreement, also admitted tipping off Francis about the criminal investigations into GDMA’s overbilling of services and briefing the defense contractor on internal U.S. Navy deliberations. In return, the commander took bribes including money, luxury hotel stays, airline flights and prostitutes while he worked for 7th Fleet in various logistics assignments from 2009 to 2013.
“Commander Sanchez sold out his command and country for cash bribes, luxury hotel rooms, and the services of prostitutes,” the U.S. attorney in San Diego said in the 2015 announcement. “After today’s guilty plea, instead of free stays at the Shangri-La hotel, Sanchez is facing many nights in federal prison.”