LOS ANGELES, November 21, 2013 (AFP) – A US Navy commander appeared in court Wednesday charged over a bribery scandal involving prostitutes, luxury travel and multimillion-dollar government contracts.
Commander Jose Luis Sanchez, 41, made his first appearance in a San Diego courtroom after being arrested on November 6 and charged with taking payoffs from a foreign defense contractor in exchange for classified information.
Judge David Bartick kept Sanchez’s bail at $100,000, as imposed when he was charged in Florida, and ordered him to continue wearing a GPS tracking device and be subject to travel restrictions.
Prosecutors allege that Sanchez accepted the services of prostitutes, luxury travel and $100,000 in cash.
Sanchez is due back in court on December 5 to be arraigned.
Sanchez was charged along with Leonard Glenn Francis, 49, of Malaysia, the CEO of Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), who was arrested September 16 in San Diego. Francis is due to appear in court Wednesday.
Two other top Navy officials – Commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz, 46, and Naval Criminal Investigative Service Supervisory Special Agent John Bertrand Beliveau II, 44 – were charged separately over bribery allegations.
“According to the allegations in this case, a number of officials were willing to sacrifice their integrity and millions of taxpayer dollars for personal gratification,” said US Attorney Laura Duffy last month.
“While the overwhelming majority of the 400,000 active-duty Navy personnel conduct themselves in a manner that is beyond reproach, we … continue to investigate the allegations of fraud and corruption that tarnish the stellar reputation of the US Navy,” she added.
US authorities allege that Misiewicz, who fled Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime as a child and was adopted by a US woman, directed ships to certain ports where GDMA overcharged for fuel, food, water and other services.
Misiewicz in return was allegedly given access to prostitutes, free travel and even tickets to a Lady Gaga concert.
Meanwhile GDMA executive Alex Wisidagama, 40, of Singapore, was also charged with participating in a related scheme to over bill the Navy for services provided in ports across Southeast Asia, the Department of Justice said.
The US Navy also stripped two admirals – Vice Admiral Ted Branch, director of naval intelligence, and Rear Admiral Bruce Loveless, director of intelligence operations – of access to classified information.
Branch and Loveless were temporarily barred from viewing classified material based on allegations linked “with an ongoing Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) investigation,” said a November 9 Navy statement.