A Navy admiral on Thursday pleaded guilty to lying to federal authorities investigating a $34 million fraud scheme involving a Malaysian contractor known as “Fat Leonard” – becoming the highest-ranking military official to be taken down in the wide-spanning scandal.
It is extremely rare for an admiral to even face criminal proceedings.
Rear Adm. Robert Gilbeau, 55, is believed to be the first active-duty Navy flag officer to be charged in federal court.
At a hearing in San Diego on Thursday, Gilbeau stood before the judge with a small, fluffy white service dog and told the court that he was guilty as charged. He declined to comment after the hearing.
Prosecutor Mark Pletcher said more will come out at his sentencing hearing Aug. 26, when the evidence will show Gilbeau’s “pervasive attempt to mislead the investigation.”
Pletcher said it will also show how he continued to “deny the nature of his relationship” with Leonard Glenn Francis, who has admitted to bribing Navy officials with more than $500,000 in cash, prostitutes, luxury hotel stays and a staggering amount of other gifts in exchange for classified information to help his company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia.
Francis’ company – which has provided fuel, food and other services to Navy ships in Asia for two decades – overbilled the maritime branch by more than $34 million, according to court documents.
According to the plea agreement, Gilbeau admitted that he lied when he told investigators that he had never received any gifts from Francis, nicknamed “Fat Leonard” because of his wide girth.
Prosecutors can recommend 12 to 18 months in jail for Gilbeau, according to a plea agreement. But defense attorney David Benowitz said he would “fight hard” to ensure his client – a decorated Navy officer – does not spend any time behind bars.
The maximum sentence is up to five years in jail.