The U.S. embassy in Manila, Philippines, where former U.S. naval attache Michael Brooks illicitly secured diplomatic clearances for a defense contractor known as “Fat Leonard.” (AP photo)
SAN DIEGO — A former U.S. naval attache to the U.S. embassy in the Philippines has been sentenced to 41 months in prison, for illicitly securing diplomatic clearances for a Malaysian defense contractor in exchange for luxury watches and the services of prostitutes.
Retired Navy Capt. Michael Brooks was sentenced Friday in federal court in San Diego after pleading guilty to bribery charges last year in the Navy’s worst corruption scandal, which helped line the pockets of a Singapore-based businessman, Leonard Francis, nicknamed “Fat Leonard.”
U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino ordered Brooks, 59, of Fairfax Station, Virginia, to pay a $40,000 fine and $31,000 in restitution to the U.S. Navy.
Nicole Sprinzen, the lawyer who represented Brooks when he pleaded guilty, did not immediately respond to phone and email messages seeking comment. Brooks is one of 21 current and former Navy officials charged in the corruption case involving Francis, the CEO of Glenn Defense Marine Asia, or GDMA, whose company serviced Navy ships in Asia for 25 years and over-billed the maritime branch by nearly $35 million.
“I continue to be appalled by the sheer number of officers who were corrupted, and by how easy it was to lure them into the scheme,” Acting U.S. Attorney Alana W. Robinson said in a statement.
According to the plea agreement, Brooks, who served as the U.S. naval attache in Manila from 2006 to 2008, secured quarterly diplomatic clearances under the U.S. embassy for the vessels of Francis’ company to travel in and out of the Philippines without being subjected to inspections. Neither GDMA nor any other defense contractor had ever been granted such clearances. It also limited the amount of taxes and customs fees the company had to pay.
Shortly thereafter, Francis, nicknamed “Fat Leonard” because of his large size, paid for a stretch limousine to take one of Brooks’ family members to a social event, according to court documents.
Brooks also submitted a Navy performance evaluation in 2007 that was ghostwritten by GDMA, and provided the company Navy ship schedules and the billing information of competitors. The evaluation in 2007 described GDMA’s services as “exceptional” and “never before experienced in the Phillipines,” according to court documents. It added that GDMA delivered “world class service in any location,” while “previous husbanding contractors struggled to perform in seemingly routine locations.”
Brooks also gave Francis internal Navy information, including ship schedules and billing information belonging to a GDMA competitor, and sometimes used private email accounts to hide their dealings, according to court documents.
In return, Francis gave Brooks and his family fine wines, luxury watches and others gifts totaling more than $15,000, prosecutors said. The two discussed prostitutes, calling them “MOCHA shake” in emails.
Francis has also pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
Brooks retired from the Navy in 2011.
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