Two Admirals are now implicated in a multi-million Navy bribery scandal that has ties to San Diego.
Vice-Admiral Branch is Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance and Director of Naval Intelligence. Rear Admiral Loveless is Director of Intelligence Operations.
The Navy says the two Admirals are being investigated for "illegal and improper relations" with Leonard Francis, a Singapore-based businessman who appeared today in federal court in San Diego.
Francis, known in Singapore as "Fat Leonard," is accused of bribing Navy Commanders Mark Vannak Khem Misiewicz and Jose Luiz Sanchez.
According to criminal complaints filed in San Diego, Francis supplied Misiewicz and Sanchez with plane tickets, access to prostitutes and concert tickets, in return for classified information about the movement of Navy ships.
The defendants allegedly arranged to have those ships dock at Asian ports controlled by “Fat Leonard,” who allegedly over-charged the Navy for fuel, food and other services.
Prosecutors say the alleged fraud cost taxpayers millions of dollars.
A fourth defendant in that case, John Beliveau, is an agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Pletcher revealed in court that Beliveau provided Francis with internal NCIS documents about the bribery investigation.
The prosecutor also said he will seek a protective order in the case, to prevent the dissemination of military secrets though the news media.
U.S. Attorney for Southern California, Laura Duffy, said the four criminal complaints were filed to “protect national security and to safeguard American defense dollars.”
Cmdr. Sanchez, 41, was arrested in Tampa, Fla. on Wednesday. He is charged with accepting escort services, high-end hotel rooms, plane tickets and $100,000 cash in return for information that helped “Fat Leonard” fleece the U.S. government.
Also charged in the case is Alex Wisidagama, an executive in “Fat Leonard’s” company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia.
Prosecutors say Wisidagama overbilled the Navy for services provided in ports throughout Southeast Asia.
Those five defendants have pleaded not guilty.
Admirals Loveless and Branch have not been criminally charged in this case.
According to the Navy’s news release, issued by Rear Admiral John F. Kirby, the allegations against Branch and Loveless “involve inappropriate conduct prior to their current assignments and flag officer rank.” The Navy says “there is no indication… that in either case there was any breach of classified information.”