High-Ranking 7th Fleet Officer Pleads Guilty to Bribery in GDMA Case

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Published Feb 3, 2022 5:11 PM by The Maritime Executive

Yet another former officer from U.S. 7th Fleet has pleaded guilty to charges of bribery in connection with the Glenn Defense Marine Asia scandal, a sprawling corruption case that has ensnared dozens of Navy officials over the course of a decade-long investigation. 

Former Captain Donald Hornbeck (AKA "Bubbles") has reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors to plead guilty to a single charge of bribery of a public official. He has admitted that GDMA's owner, Leonard "Fat Leonard" Glenn Francis, provided him with at least $67,000 worth of inducements - including hotel stays, the services of prostitutes and luxury dinners - in exchange for years of corrupt assistance with winning Navy contracts. 

Unlike lower-level participants involved in the scandal, who merely provided Francis with information about vessel movements, Hornbeck admitted that he had actively used his official position - Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations for 7th Fleet - to send U.S. Navy vessels to ports where GDMA dominated the ship-husbandry business. Hornbeck also intervened on GDMA's behalf in contracting and billing disputes, contacting Navy administrative authorities to advocate for prompt payment of GDMA's requests and to ensure that GDMA was given privileged consideration during bidding. 

In exchange, according to the plea document, Francis provided Hornbeck and his co-conspirators with luxury-hotel parties attended by prostitutes. In May 2008 alone, Francis arranged four of these parties in separate port cities for Hornbeck and his co-conspirators, who were deployed aboard command ship USS Blue Ridge for goodwill port calls. "Really enjoyed my new Mongolian friend," he wrote Francis after one of these events. In July 2008, Francis emailed Hornbeck and a co-conspirator an image of an unclothed prostitute, writing that "I thought this would bring back memories of . . . Manila" and (to Hornbeck) "she misses you." 

In 2006, during the course of an effort to divert USS Abraham Lincoln to Laem Chabang for GDMA's benefit, Hornbeck also asked Francis for a job. "If you are still considering opening an office in San Diego in the near-future, I would very much be interested in being a part of that," Hornbeck wrote. He asked again in 2008, towards the end of his tenure at 7th Fleet, and again in 2011. Francis did not agree to provide him with employment. 

Under the plea deal, Hornbeck has agreed to repay the value of the inducements he received from Francis, plus a $37,000 fine. Prosecutors will recommend 36 months of supervised release, but no prison time. The maximum possible sentence for the charge would be 15 years in prison.