A U.S. Navy lieutenant commander has pleaded guilty to accepting cash, luxury hotels and prostitutes from foreign defense contractor "Fat Leonard" Francis in exchange for proprietary Navy information, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.
Lt. Cmdr. Gentry Debord pleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy to commit bribery Thursday before U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino. He was charged in the multi-million dollar Navy bribary case in May.
NBC 7 has been following this investigation since September 2013.
Debord admitted he instructed Francis and his company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), to add charges for fake services into invoices sent to the U.S. Navy; those charges were used to mask the illegal gifts he received in turn. The fraud lasted from November 2007 to January 2013.
According to his guilty plea, Debord used code language and fake email accounts to communicate with Francis and others involved in the fraud—often referring to prostitutes as "cheesecakes" and "bodyguards" to avoid being caught.
In one instance, Debord asked for three hotel rooms, two cell phones, a van and $2,000 in Singaporean money from a GDMA executive during a port visit to Singapore. He then told the employee to inflate the charges billed to the U.S. Navy for potable water and trash removal service on a U.S. Navy ship.
“This conduct is a disgrace to the U.S. Navy and an affront to U.S. taxpayers who were left to foot the bill for parties and prostitutes. We are pressing forward in this investigation until we are certain that all involved have been held accountable,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy.
Sixteen people have been charged during the investigation.
In 2015, Francis pleaded guilty to bribing senior Navy officials in exchange for specific U.S. Navy warship movements so his company could overbill the Pentagon. Two former executives of his company were also charged for their involvement in the bribery scheme in September 2016.
Earlier in the year, Rear Admiral Robert Gilbeau pleaded guilty to one felony charge in the multi-million dollar bribery scheme. He became the highest-ranking U.S. Navy officer to be charged in the case.
Former civilian Defense Department Officer Paul Simpkins also entered a guilty plea in a federal court in San Diego.
Retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Edmond A. Aruffo, U.S. Navy Capt. Daniel Dusek, U.S. Navy Capt. (Select) Michael Misiewicz, Lt. Cmdr. Todd Malaki, NCIS Special Agent John Beliveau, Cmdr. Jose Luis Sanchez and U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dan Layug have also pleaded guilty. Layug, Malaki, Dusek and Misiwicz have been sentenced, while Gilbeau, Beliveau, Sanchez, Simpkins and Aruffo await sentencing.
Retired Capt. Michael Brooks and Cmdr. Bobby Pitts were charged in May, along with Debord. Their cases are pending.
Debord is scheduled to appear in court for his sentencing on Jan. 13, 2017. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.