Businessman accused in Navy corruption case may change not-guilty plea

SAN DIEGO - Leonard Glenn Francis, a Malaysian businessman accused of bribing high-ranking US Navy officers to steer millions of dollars of contract services to his company, may change his not-guilty plea on Thursday, court documents show.

Francis is scheduled for a change of plea hearing in US District Court in San Diego in the case, which shook the Navy command structure when the investigation was made public last fall.

Neither prosecutors nor Francis's attorney returned telephone calls for comment on Wednesday evening. Francis pleaded innocent to charges of conspiracy to commit bribery in November.

Francis is one of seven men, including two Navy commanders, an officer and a Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent, indicted in November on federal bribery and conspiracy charges.

The indictments allege that Francis bribed Navy officers with cash as well as prostitutes, high-end electronics, luxury hotel stays and high-priced entertainment for Navy officers who then shared classified information.

Francis allegedly received classified information on ship movements and schedules and, later, on Navy investigations into his billing practices, prosecutors said.

His company, Glenn Defence Marine Asia, held more than $200 million in Navy contracts to provide ship husbandry, including cleaning, restocking, refueling and repairing Navy ships from the Seventh Fleet in Pacific ports in Singapore, Thailand, Japan and other locations.

Francis would then inflate the charges and demand kickbacks from GDMA's subcontractors, the bribery indictments allege.

The scandal rocked the Navy with two high-level commanders under indictment. Two other Navy officials, a vice admiral and a rear admiral, have been placed on leave over the scandal and a captain was removed from the command of an assault ship while the Navy investigates his ties to GDMA.

Two GDMA executives have also pleaded guilty to charges arising from the conspiracy.

Francis, dubbed "Fat Leonard" because he is a tall, wide man, would be the sixth defendant to plead guilty. One Navy commander, Michael Vannek Khem Misiewicz, continues to maintain his innocence.