Navy commander facing jail for part in bribery scheme

AS A US navy commander, Jose Luis Sanchez helped oversee operations in an area spanning Japan, Russia, Singapore, Australia and many other countries across Asia. Now, he is the highest-ranking official to plead guilty in a massive bribery scheme that has rocked the US navy.
Jose Luis Sanchez has admitted being part of the bribery scandal. Picture: APJose Luis Sanchez has admitted being part of the bribery scandal. Picture: AP
Jose Luis Sanchez has admitted being part of the bribery scandal. Picture: AP

The bribes that destroyed Sanchez’s career and leave him facing a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison are valued at no more than $120,000, (£80,000) according to a plea agreement. That includes payment to prostitutes, $7,500 to travel from Asia to the United States, five days at Singapore’s luxury Shangri-La Hotel and cash.

On Tuesday, Sanchez, 42, became the second navy official and fifth person overall to plead guilty over an alleged scheme to provide classified navy ship and submarine schedules and other internal information to Leonard Glenn Francis, chief executive of a Singapore-based company that provided services to vessels at ports.

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Sanchez acknowledged sharing confidential information with Francis – known in military circles as “Fat Leonard” – from 2009 to 2013. Sanchez said he provided shipping schedules, a competitor’s bills and internal e-mails that Francis’ company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd., was being investigated for possible fraud. The kickbacks were documented in a series of e-mails, including one in which Sanchez asked for photos of prostitutes for “motivation” and another that discussed trips for him and his navy colleagues he called his “wolfpack,” according to court records.

Sanchez, who has remained on active duty in San Diego, was asked in court to silently read four passages of the 24-page plea agreement and say if the wrongdoing described was accurate.

“Yes, sir,” he told US magistrate judge David Bartick each time. .

Francis and his company serviced navy ships for 25 years. Prosecutors say he bought information that allowed his company to overbill the navy for port services in Asia by at least $20 million since 2009. He was arrested in September 2013 and has pleaded not guilty.

Sanchez, who is one of four navy personnel charged in the case, held key positions in Asia before he was reassigned to Tampa, Florida, in 2013. During the period that he said he took bribes, his positions included director of operations and executive officer for the commanding officer of the navy’s Fleet Logistics Command in Yokosuka, Japan.

He is the second navy officer to plead guilty in the case after Daniel Layug, a petty officer, who admitted providing classified shipping schedules and other internal navy information to Francis.

Cmdr Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz, 47, was indicted on Tuesday on an additional seven counts of bribery. Misiewicz, also of San Diego, has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery.

The judge agreed to let Sanchez remove a GPS monitor while free on bond and allowed him to back the bond with assets from his mother and sister, instead of his own property.

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However, he can’t leave southern California except to visit his attorney and is scheduled to appear for sentencing on 27 March.

Sanchez and his attorney declined to speak to reporters as they left the courtroom.