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Navy commander sentenced to 78 months in bribery scandal

  • COURTESY U.S. NAVY

    In this Dec. 4, 2010 photo, Cmdr. Michael V. Misiewicz, commanding officer of the guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin, is greeted by members of his family as Mustin arrives in Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

SAN DIEGO >> A Navy commander who fled Cambodia’s killing fields as a boy to grow up to become a decorated U.S. military officer was sentenced Friday to 78 months in prison for providing classified ship schedules in exchange for the services of prostitutes, theater tickets and other gifts from a Malaysian defense contractor.

A federal judge in San Diego gave Captain-select Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz, 48, the longest sentence handed out so far in one of the worst bribery scandals to rock the Navy. The contractor overbilled the Navy by more than $34 million.

U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino told the court this offense was “one of the most serious I’ve had on my time on the bench.”

In his plea agreement, Misiewicz acknowledged providing classified information to Leonard Glenn Francis, whose Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia, or GDMA, supplied ships in the Pacific for more than 25 years. Francis, nicknamed “Fat Leonard” because of his wide girth, used the schedules and inside information to beat out competitors and overbill the Navy by submitting fake tariffs and port fees, according to prosecutors.

Misiewicz and Francis moved Navy vessels like chess pieces, diverting aircraft carriers, destroyers and other ships to Asian ports with lax oversight where Francis could inflate costs, the criminal complaint alleges.

Misiewicz is among 10 people charged in the case, including numerous Naval officials.

Navy Criminal Investigative Service agents initiated their probe in 2010. That same year, Misiewicz caught the world’s attention when he made an emotional return as a U.S. Naval commander to his native Cambodia, where he had been rescued as a child from the violence of the Khmer Rouge and adopted by an American woman. His homecoming was widely covered by international media.

Meanwhile, Francis was recruiting him for his scheme, according to court documents.

Misiewicz’s family went to a “Lion King production” in Tokyo with a GDMA employee, and Misiewicz later was offered prostitution services and cash. Francis paid on at least eight occasions for Misiewicz, his mother, brother and children to travel in luxury to the Philippines, Japan, Kuala Lumpur, Cambodia, Singapore and the United States. The businessman also provided his wife with a designer handbag.

From January 2011 to September 2013, Misiewicz provided Francis ship movement schedules for the USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group and other ships, according to court documents. He admitted that he tried to cover up his dealings by using secret, temporary email accounts.

“Misiewicz was respected and revered within the Navy, particularly given his compelling personal story as a Cambodian refugee,” U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said in a statement. “Yet for two years, he lived a double life of deception and dishonesty. This is not just a fall from grace. This is a swan dive off the Empire State Building.”

In December 2011, Misiewicz exchanged emails about the schedule of the USS Blue Ridge, investigators say. According to court documents, Francis wrote Misiewicz: “Bro, Slide a Bali visit in after Jakarta, and Dili Timor after Bali.”

The complaint alleges Misiewicz followed through on the demands: In October 2012, the USS George Washington was scheduled to visit Singapore and instead was redirected by the Navy to Port Klang, Malaysia, one of Francis’ preferred ports where his company submitted fake contractor bids.

After Francis offered Misiewicz five tickets to a Lady Gaga concert in Thailand in 2012, Francis wrote: “Don’t chicken out bro we need u with us on the front lines,” according to court documents.

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  • He doesn’t deserve to be an american, much less a naval officer. They should deport him back to Cambodia after his sentence is served.

    • Agree, after given an opportunity for a good life as an American, took advantage of his position to enrich himself and cohort at the expense of the taxpayers. A ingrate of the lowest nature.

      • I fully agree with you this time cojef. I for one would be interested in learning at what point in his once celebrated life Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz went bad. It had to have happened well before he hooked up with a GDMA employee in Tokyo. At some point Misiewicz must have convinced himself that massive corruption and profiting from ill-gotten gains were worth risking his promising naval career, freedom, reputation, and poster-boy status.

        • We may never know where or how Misiewicz went bad, but my guess is that he was influenced by naval officers of much higher rank who also were involved in this scandal. Three admirals were forced into retirement. Two were rear admirals (two stars) and one was a vice admiral (three stars). The latter served as Superintendent of the US Naval Academy and was reduced in rank to rear admiral upon his forced retirement. Their specific roles in the scandal have not been revealed, but were serious enough to warrant their forced retirement from the Navy. Two more currently serving rear admirals are still being investigated for their alleged role in the scandal. The first person to be sentence in this case was an enlisted man, Petty Officer 2nd Class Dan Layug, who was sentenced in January to two years and three months in prison. Layug’s background has some similarities to Misiewicz. He lived an impoverished childhood in his native Philippines but escaped that when given the opportunity to be adopted by his uncle, a career U.S. Navy man. There have been no reports of either Misiewicz or Layug implicated higher ranking officers in the scandal, but we have not heard the last of this case as there are still about five more current or former Navy personnel whose cases are still being adjudicated.

  • Money is the root of all evil. So now you have to pay the price. Being an American Navy Commander wasn’t good enough for him, so he returned to his real roots…thief..he took advantage of the American open arms policy…Off with his head I say…

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