Another domino in the so-called “Fat Leonard” scandal fell this week, as retired Navy Chief Warrant Officer Robert Gorsuch pleaded guilty Tuesday to taking more than $45,000 in bribes in exchange for sharing classified ship schedules with the owner of a Singapore-based port services company, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California announced.
Gorsuch, 54, is one of nine officers indicted in 2017 for their alleged role in the kickback scheme spearheaded by “Fat Leonard” Glenn Francis, a magnate who owned Glenn Defense Marine Asia, a company that raked in lucrative port servicing contracts from the Navy while plying officers in the West Pacific with luxury hotel stays, meals, prostitutes and other perks.
Gorsuch served as the flag administration officer for the Japan-based U.S. 7th Fleet from 2005 to 2008, according to a release announcing his guilty plea.
In his plea agreement, Gorsuch admitted to taking several bribes from Francis during those years, including attending a high-end $15,000 party at a hotel in Manila, Philippines in 2007, for which Francis footed the bill, according to prosecutors.
Other kickbacks that Gorsuch admitted to taking include a stay at the Shangri-La hotel in the Philippines that same year, and several nights at luxe hotels in Malaysia and Tokyo, the attorney’s office said.
In exchange, Gorsuch sent Leonard discs containing 7th Fleet classified ship schedules in 2007 and 2008, according to the attorney’s office.
According to prosecutors, he also emailed Francis regarding the planned movements of two ships in late 2007.
Gorsuch’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Gorsuch sacrificed his integrity for so little and caused so much harm in the process,” Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said in a statement. “Gorsuch has admitted his part in this scandal and will be held to account for his conduct.”
The bribery charge for which he pleaded guilty carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The trial for the eight other defendants indicted with Gorsuch in 2017 is scheduled to begin on Nov. 1, according to the attorney’s office.
They are retired Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless, captains David Newland, James Dolan, Donald Hornbeck and David Lausman, Marine Corps Col. Enrico DeGuzman, Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Shedd and Cmdr. Mario Herrera. All have pleaded not guilty.
The Fat Leonard scandal has led to federal criminal charges against 34 Navy officials, the Glenn Defense Marine Asia corporation and defense contractors.
Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 to bribery and fraud charges, admitting that he presided over a massive conspiracy involving his company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia, Navy officials, tens of millions of dollars in fraud and millions of dollars in bribes and gifts — from cash to booze-soaked parties, luxury travel, prostitutes and Spanish suckling pigs.
So far 26 have pleaded guilty, “admitting that they collectively accepted millions of dollars in luxury travel and accommodations, meals or services of prostitutes from Francis in exchange for helping GDMA win and maintain contracts and overbill the Navy by over $35 million,” the prosecutor’s office said in its release announcing Gorsuch’s guilty plea.
The Justice Department passed hundreds of lower-level cases back to the Navy for adjudication—including some involving 60 admirals — but Navy officials have declined to say how those cases were adjudicated, citing “the ongoing nature of the investigation.”
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.