Highest-ranking officer thus charged in bribery scandal

WASHINGTON — US Navy Rear Adm. Robert Gilbeau will plead guilty today to one count in the Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA) investigation, becoming the highest-ranking officer thus far to face federal criminal charges.

He becomes the 14th person charged in the GDMA scandal, also known as the Fat Leonard case after a nickname for Leonard Francis, the organization’s top official.

Most of those charged were accused of accepting bribes and favors in exchange for information on US Navy ship movements in the western Pacific and arranging visits to specific ports where GDMA handled ship husbanding chores — the panoply of services needed by any ship visiting a foreign port.

Gilbeau, a supply officer, agreed to plead guilty to lying to federal investigators, but was not directly charged with criminal activity in conjunction with his relations to GDMA.

According to his service record, Gilbeau served as a supply officer aboard several ships that operated in GDMA’s territory. The most recent seagoing assignment was as supply officer aboard the aircraft carrier Nimitz, which operated in GDMA’s area during a 2003 deployment when Gilbeau was aboard. Gilbeau also served as a crisis action team leader during tsunami relief operations in early 2005. A 1983 graduate of the US Naval Academy, Gilbeau’s awards include a Legion of Merit, a Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, four Meritorious Service Medals, a Navy Unit Commendation and a Combat Action Ribbon.

Gilbeau’s most recent posting was as a special assistant to the Chief of the Supply Corps at the Defense Logistics Agency headquarters on Fort Belvoir, Virginia — apparently a holding position while the investigation was carried out.

Gilbeau’s attorney, David Benowitiz, issued a statement on Gilbeau’s behalf prior to today’s court appearance in San Diego,.

“Rear Admiral Robert Gilbeau has completed multiple combat deployments afloat and ashore during his distinguished 37-year naval career,” Benowitz said. “Among his many decorations, he was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart during the 2007 Iraq surge.

“However, Rear Admiral Gilbeau did in fact make a false statement during the course of an important investigation. In this unfortunate situation, he accepts responsibility for the decisions he made and for his conduct.”

Gilbeau is the fourth officer in recent weeks to face federal charges in the GDMA case. Three other officers were charged on May 27: retired Capt. Michael Brooks; Cmdr. Bobby Pitts; and Lt. Cmdr. Gentry Debord. Those cases have not yet gone to trial.

Adm. John Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), issued a personal statement just before the indictment was announced.

“This behavior is inconsistent with our standards and the expectations the nation has for us as military professionals,” Richardson wrote. “It damages the trust that the nation places in us, and is an embarrassment to the Navy.

“We are fully cooperating with officials from the Department of Justice and law enforcement agencies to ensure that those who violated the law are held accountable. But we must go further. We naval officers have a professional and moral obligation to continuously examine our personal conduct to ensure that we embody the attributes of integrity and accountability. We must hold ourselves accountable to the highest standards of behavior, and work tirelessly to restore any damage that has been done to these crucial relationships. As CNO, I am personally committed to leading this effort”

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