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3 admirals forced out because of links to bribery scandal

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SAN DIEGO » Three Navy admirals forced into retirement after being linked to a bribery scandal had enjoyed fancy dinners and cigars, sightseeing trips, shopping binges and high-value hotel accommodations from the key figure in the case: colorful Singaporean businessman Leonard Glenn Francis.

The censure letters meted out by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus were announced in February, along with the retirement of the three rear admirals: Vice Adm. Michael Miller, Rear Adm. Terry Kraft and Rear Adm. David Pimpo.

But the details behind what Mabus called “poor judgment and a failure of leadership” were not known until the Navy Times published a story over the weekend based on redacted documents received through the Freedom of Information Act.

“You used your relationship with Mr. Francis to secure tour services and hotel rooms for you” and other senior officers, Mabus wrote in a letter of censure to Pimpo, who was demoted to captain.

“Given the frequency of the gifts which you received from Mr. Francis,” Mabus wrote, “your actions would have led a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts to believe that you used your public office for private gain.”

Miller, Kraft and Pimpo have not been criminally charged in the case involving Francis’ firm, Glenn Defense Marin Asia, which for two decades supplied services to U.S. Navy ships at ports in Asia and the Pacific.

Federal prosecutors assert that Francis, through bribes given to military personnel, cost the taxpayers $20 million in overcharges and charges for services that were not rendered.

Francis has pleaded guilty to bribery. As he awaits sentencing in San Diego federal court, he is said to be assisting prosecutors.

In his censure letter to Miller, Mabus noted that the cost of dinner parties thrown by Francis in Hong Kong and Malaysia for Miller and other officers was $23,061, “which equates to $768.72 per person.” But officers paid only $50 each.

Mabus added, “You knew or should have known that $50 per person was not the market value for these extravagant dinner parties.”

Miller, Kraft and Pimpo were assigned to leadership positions to the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan in the Western Pacific and Persian Gulf when the inappropriate behavior allegedly occurred in 2006 and 2007.

Miller was commander of Carrier Strike Group 7; Kraft was the commander of the Reagan; and Pimpo was the supply officer on the Reagan.

Later, all three went on to positions of even greater authority: Pimpo became commander of Naval Supply System Command, Weapons System Support; Miller became a special assistant to the superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy; and Kraft was commander of U.S. Naval Forces in Japan.

Among those expenses provided at cut-rate prices were hotel suites in Hong Kong and lavish meals in Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Besides Francis, a Navy captain, a commander, a retired lieutenant commander, an enlisted sailor, an ex-Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent, and a cousin of Francis who worked for his company have all pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

A second commander and a former high-ranking Navy civilian have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial.

The cost of parties that Francis threw for Navy officers was included in the padded bills that he submitted, prosecutors said.

In exchange for bribes of money, first-class air and hotel reservations, and the services of prostitutes, the U.S. military and civilian employees charged in the case leaked to Francis classified information about the movement of ships.

Inside information allowed Francis’ firm to gain a competitive advantage over other firms bidding to provide lucrative “husbanding” services when the ships pulled into port, prosecutors said.

In some cases, according to prosecutors, the destination of ships, including the flagship of the Navy’s 7th Fleet, based in Japan, was changed to places where Francis’ firm was stronger.

For two decades, Francis’ firm supplied water, fuel, food, garbage and waste removal, tugboats, fenders and other items for Navy ships in Asia-Pacific ports. Amid the scandal, the Navy has canceled all contracts with the firm.

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