The Man Who Corrupted 7th Fleet is Getting a Podcast

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Published Sep 26, 2021 7:28 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Navy's biggest scandal in a generation is about to get another airing. Journalist Tom Wright has produced a podcast series about the long-running Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA) investigation, and it will be drawing on uncensored, exclusive interviews with the man at the center of the scheme - the notorious Leonard "Fat Leonard" Glenn Francis. 

In search of lucrative U.S. Navy port husbandry contracts in East Asia, Francis penetrated the leadership structure at Japan-based 7th Fleet, corrupting insiders who could help his business. In exchange for information and assistance, he handed out cash bribes and perks. These benefits included raucous sex parties, luxury hotel stays and the services of prostitutes. In short, Francis provided the kind of louche "high life" that is not typically available to the Navy servicemember on a modest government salary. 

"I had the Navy by their b___s," Francis told Wright. 

In exchange for an estimated $1 million worth of bribery, Francis got information, inside favors and protection from investigators, allowing him to defraud the service out of at least $36 million over the span of seven years. It wasn't just a one-way street: officers involved in the scheme said that the Navy quietly benefited from Francis' ability to take care of tasks under the table, like getting access to new ports of call and securing the assistance of local officials. "He is a crook, but he is our crook," one officer told investigators.

So far, the case has secured guilty pleas from 22 civilians and servicemembers, including a flag officer, and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service has looked into the actions of literally hundreds of additional personnel. There may be more revelations to come: In a release, Wright said that the podcast "will shed light on the Navy’s cover-up of the case, which . . . failed to prosecute admirals whom Leonard claims took gifts and favors."