(WASHINGTON) — When military authorities learned there was a mole inside the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), who was selling confidential information to a foreign contractor in exchange for luxury travel and prostitutes, investigators turned the tables and used the conspirator to lure in an even bigger fish, prosecutors said.
NCIS Supervisory Special Agent John Beliveau II pleaded guilty Tuesday for his role in what officials have called a “massive” and ever-growing bribery scandal rocking the Navy. Beliveau admitted to working inside the NCIS for years to thwart his own service’s investigations into Singapore-based defense contractor Glenn Defense Marines (Asia) (GDMA) and its head, Leonard Francis, a Malaysian national known as “Fat Leonard” in Navy circles. GDMA provided husbandry services for Navy ships in Asian ports, arranging tugboats, fresh water and fuel for the ships, among other services, to the tune of millions of dollars a visit.
Court documents show the NCIS had opened several investigations into GDMA after repeated accusations of corruption and bribery, but investigators did not know that Beliveau was sabotaging them from the inside by accessing the NCIS’ internal, confidential network to pull files on the various investigations, which he then turned over to Francis. Beliveau also coached Francis and GDMA employees on how to answer or evade investigators’ questions. In return, Francis provided Beliveau with lavish vacations, envelopes full of cash, thousand-dollar nightclub parties and prostitutes, according to Beliveau’s plea agreement.
Much of the government’s case against Beliveau stemmed from colorful emails he exchanged with Francis, including one in which court documents say Beliveau wrote, “You give your whores more money than me ;).”
But another investigation into GDMA, this one launched by the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) working with the NCIS, uncovered Beliveau’s misdeeds. Rather than lock him up immediately, however, authorities decided to use Francis’ inside man against him.
“[W]hen authorities learned of Beliveau’s duplicity, they began planting bogus reports in the [NCIS] system, including one that falsely indicated the investigations of Francis were going to be closed,” knowing that the information would find its way to Francis, the Department of Justice said in a statement following Beliveau’s guilty plea. “Soon after that, an emboldened Francis came to San Diego from Singapore for a meeting with Navy brass, and Francis was arrested. Beliveau was taken into custody the same day in Virginia.”
So far the investigation into GDMA and Francis has produced three arrests in addition to Francis and Beliveau, including the handcuffing of U.S. Navy Commanders Michael Misiewicz and Jose Sanchez, each accused of giving Francis classified information on ship movements in exchange for similar perks that Beliveau received, as well as GDMA executive Alex Wisidagama. Two other high-ranking Navy officials, Director of Naval Intelligence Vice Adm. Ted Branch and Director of Intelligence Operations Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless, had their access to classified material revoked by the Navy in October for their apparent link to the investigation into GDMA.
Previous statements by U.S. officials and court documents suggest the case could ensnare several more officials. For his part, an attorney for Beliveau told ABC News Tuesday he is “ready to move forward with his life.”
“He is accepting responsibility,” attorney Jessica Carmichael said. “This is an uncharacteristic event in his life and a catastrophic mistake.”
Beliveau faces up to 20 years in prison. Everyone else so far arrested in the case has pleaded not guilty.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Evan Perez and Pamela Brown, CNN
Stephen Collinson, CNN
Mallory Simon, Tim Hume and Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
Parija Kavilanz, CNN