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Former Pacific Fleet chief spokesman sentenced in ‘Fat Leonard’ Navy scandal

  • COURTESY U.S. NAVY / 2012

    Retired Navy Capt. Jeffrey Breslau, left, is the 18th current or former U.S. Navy official to plead guilty in the expansive “Fat Leonard” corruption and fraud scandal.

A former director of public affairs with U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor was sentenced Friday in federal court to six months in prison and ordered to pay $85,000 in restitution and fines for secretly moonlighting as a paid public relations consultant for foreign defense contractor Leonard Glenn Francis, the U.S. Justice Department said.

Retired Navy Capt. Jeffrey Breslau, 52, is the 18th current or former Navy official to plead guilty in the expansive “Fat Leonard” corruption and fraud scandal.

So far, 33 defendants have been charged in the United States, and 22 have pleaded guilty, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California. Breslau was sentenced in San Diego.

Francis, a 350-pound defense contractor and Malaysian national, pleaded guilty in 2015 to bribery and fraud charges over a decade­-long conspiracy involving his company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia, which provided ship services to the Navy in Southeast Asia.

“Breslau was secretly advocating for Leonard Francis behind the backs of his Navy colleagues,” U.S. Attorney Robert S. Brewer Jr. said in a release. “Breslau’s deceit was part of an astounding culture of corruption that has been exposed and eliminated as a result of this historic investigation.”

The Cumming, Ga., man accepted more than $65,000 from Francis without disclosing the agreement to the Navy, according to prosecutors.

From October 2009 until July 2012, Breslau was chief of public affairs for U.S. Pacific Fleet, headquartered at Pearl Harbor.

Following that assignment, and until July 2014, he was assigned to the Joint Public Affairs Support Element in Norfolk, Va., and was responsible for leading joint crisis communications teams.

Breslau pleaded guilty to a conflict-of-interest charge and 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 Justice Department said previously.

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 department, 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 Navy personnel.

Breslau described himself as Francis’ “priest” in one email exchange with the Malaysian shipping magnate because of the confidential nature of the relationship, officials said.

In another email, Breslau urged Francis to be discreet in his communications with other Navy officers: “Hope I was blind copied on the note below. Important to not compromise me even to your closest Navy brothers.”

Francis reply came back: “Rest assured your identity is protected.”

In another email Francis told Breslau, “I like your ghost writing it truly helps me.”

“In nearly every instance, defendant’s work consisted of advocating for Francis and against the U.S. Navy, against its officers, against its senior civilian leaders, and against its enlisted sailors,” the sentencing memo said.

Dozens of Navy officers and others were accused of using their influence to steer ships to Glenn Defense-controlled ports and otherwise advance Francis’ interests. Francis paid out millions of dollars in bribes and lavish gifts, including luxury travel, airline upgrades, five-star hotel accommodations, top-shelf alcohol, the services of prostitutes, Cuban cigars, Kobe beef and Spanish suckling pigs, according to officials.

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. The actions cost the Navy tens of millions of dollars.

U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino fined Breslau $20,000 and ordered him to perform 250 hours of community service and to pay $65,000 in restitution to the Navy. His attorneys could not be immediately reached for comment.

Breslau was charged in September and pleaded guilty in November. The then-Navy captain’s assistance helped Francis create relationships with five Navy admirals and win or maintain lucrative Navy contracts for his Singaporean-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia, according to the sentencing memorandum.

“Simply put, the defendant sold his fiduciary alliance for $65,000,” the memo said. He faced a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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