A former U.S. Pacific Fleet public affairs chief pleaded guilty to criminal conflict of interest in the Navy’s “Fat Leonard” scandal, admitting he did public relations consulting for Malaysian ship-business magnate Leonard Glenn Francis and ghostwrote numerous Francis’ emails to U.S. Navy personnel in exchange for $65,000, the U.S. Justice Department said Tuesday.
Retired Navy Capt. Jeffrey Breslau, 52, of Cumming, Georgia, pleaded guilty to one count of criminal conflict of interest before U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino of the Southern District of California, the department said in a news release. Breslau was charged in September.
He was director of public affairs for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, headquartered in Pearl Harbor, from October 2009 until July 2012.
“As part of his duties, Breslau was involved in devising the U.S. Navy’s public affairs communications strategy, and provided public affairs guidance to Pacific Fleet components and other U.S. Navy commands,” according to the Justice Department.
From August 2012 until July 2014, he was assigned the Joint Public Affairs Support Element in Norfolk, Va., and was responsible for leading joint crisis communications teams.
Breslau admitted that from March 2012 until September 2013, “he provided Francis with public relations consulting services, including providing advice on how to respond to issues and controversies related to Francis’s ship husbanding business with the U.S. Navy,” the report states.
Those included issues related to port visit costs, allegations of malfeasance such as the unauthorized dumping of waste, disputes with competitors, and issues with Pacific Fleet and contracting personnel, the department said.
According to the report, during the course of his consulting agreement with Francis, Breslau authored, reviewed or edited at least 33 separate documents; authored at least 135 emails providing advice to Francis; and provided at least 14 instances of “talking points” in advance of meetings between Francis and high ranking U.S. Navy personnel.
Francis, a 350-pound defense contractor and Malaysian national, pleaded guilty in 2015 to bribery and fraud charges over the decade-long conspiracy involving his company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia, which provided ship services to the Navy in Southeast Asia.
Dozens of former Navy officers and others are accused of using their influence to steer ships to Glenn Defense-controlled ports and otherwise advance Francis’ interests.
The Justice Department called it a fleecing and betrayal of the public trust of “epic proportions,” with the bribery amounting to a “staggering degree of corruption” by some of the most prominent Navy leaders in the Western Pacific.
So far, 33 defendants have been charged and 22 have pleaded guilty, many admitting to accepting things of value from Francis in exchange for helping the contractor win and maintain contracts and over-bill the Navy by millions of dollars, according to the Justice Department.