A 27-year former enlisted sailor who is now a supply corps lieutenant could become the next casualty in the Fat Leonard corruption scandal.
Lt. Peter Vapor, a supply officer assigned to Naval Construction Group One in Port Hueneme, California, is the latest in a long line of active-duty and retired Navy personnel to be charged with taking bribes from Leonard “Fat Leonard” Francis, a Malaysian defense contractor who ran the Glenn Defense Marine Asia company in Singapore.
Vapor faces a possible court-martial on up to four charges accusing him of patronizing prostitutes, conduct unbecoming, making false official statements and violating lawful orders, Navy officials said.
Vapor faced an Article 32 hearing on the charges in a Norfolk Naval Station military courtroom on Oct. 3.
Most of the charges stem from Vapor’s alleged contact with Francis, who was found guilty in U.S. federal court in 2014 of bilking the Navy of $35 million and is in currently prison. Francis is cooperating with federal and Navy authorities as they prosecute others involved.
Over two decades, Robert Gilbeau rose through the ranks to Navy admiral and earned a chest-full of honors for his service, including a Bronze Star and Purple Heart. During that period he also partied across Southeast Asia with a gregarious Malaysian businessman who paid for lavish dinners, drinks at karaoke bars and prostitutes.
But Navy prosecutors are also charging Vapor with adultery and patronizing prostitutes in charges that make no specific reference to the now-imprisoned contractor.
Vapor was assigned to the Singapore-based Naval Logistics Group Western Pacific, Singapore at the time of the alleged misconduct.
All of Vapor’s charges stem from a one-year time frame between September 2012 and September 2013, when Francis was arrested by U.S authorities in a San Diego hotel.
During that year, Vapor allegedly accepted gifts “in the form of food and liquor and the services of prostitutes” from Francis, according to Navy court documents.
After Francis’ arrest, Vapor allegedly lied to investigators and said he had never met Francis and said he had no knowledge of other U.S. naval officers accepting bribes from Francis, either.
Vapor’s Article 32 hearing was presided over by a military judge who will make a recommendation to Adm. Phil Davidson, commander of Fleet Forces Command what, if any charges should go forward to a court-martial.
A Navy commander was charged at an Article 32 hearing with accepting meals, alcohol and prostitutes from Leonard "Fat Leonard" Francis.
Navy officials would not speculate on what penalties Vapor could face if found guilty on all charges. Typically, prostitution charges alone could bring a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and up to a year behind bars.
Vapor initially enlisted in the Navy in 1990 and served for nearly 15 years as an Aviation Maintenance Administrationman, rising to first-class petty officer before getting a direct commission as a supply corps officer in 2005.
As an officer, he served first on the guided-missile frigate Thatch, and then at Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily before being assigned to Singapore in 2011. He returned to the the United States in 2015 and has been at Naval Construction Group One since.
Vapor, whose name appeared on the fiscal 2015 staff corps lieutenant commander promotion list in 2014, has not been advanced to that rank. He originally requested to retire and had an initially approved retirement date of Sept. 1, 2016.
He was, however, retained on active duty because he was under investigation and will remain in an active status until the charges against him are adjudicated by the Navy, officials tell Navy Times.
If a court-martial occurs, it will be held in Norfolk even though Vapor is attached to a West Coast command. That’s because Davidson’s command, FFC was designated by Navy leadership as the “consolidated convening authority” for all cases the Navy prosecutes in relation to the Fat Leonard Scandal.
Vapor, who is attached currently to a West Coast-based unit, was charged in Norfolk and will return to face those charges at a court martial if it’s convened.
Including Vapor, 32 people have been criminally charged in connection with the case. Besides Francis and others in his company, a great majority of those charged have been active-duty and retired Navy officers and one enlisted sailor.
The Navy has charged one of its commanders with accepting gifts and sex with prostitutes from a Malaysian defense contractor.
And it’s not over yet. More than 200 others, including roughly 30 Navy admirals have been scrutinized during the ongoing investigation.
Navy officials won’t comment openly about what is yet to come or give any details, but sources familiar with the investigation expect more individuals to be charged in the future.