Navy commander latest to plead guilty in massive corruption case

SAN DIEGO – A U.S. Navy commander pleaded guilty in San Diego Tuesday to a conspiracy charge stemming from his efforts to obstruct a federal criminal investigation into a massive bribery and fraud scheme orchestrated by foreign defense contractor Glenn “Fat Leonard” Francis.

Navy Cmdr. Bobby Pitts, 48, admitted that he attempted to protect Francis, owner and CEO of Glenn Defense Marine Asia.

Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 to presiding over a decade-long conspiracy involving scores of U.S. Navy officials, tens of millions of dollars in fraud and millions of dollars in bribes and gifts, from cash, prostitutes and luxury travel to Cuban cigars, Kobe beef and Spanish suckling pigs.

Pitts is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 1 by U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino.

From August 2009 to May 2011, Pitts served as the officer in charge of the U.S. Navy’s Fleet Industrial Supply Command in Singapore.

As part of his duties, Pitts learned that Naval Criminal Investigative Service and several civilian employees of the U.S. Navy were investigating whether Francis was over-billing the U.S. Navy on ship husbanding contracts, according to admissions made as part of his plea agreement.

Pitts had access to internal U.S. Navy documents pertaining to investigative steps that the U.S. Navy was considering and admitted that he shared the information with Francis, with the intent to impede and obstruct the U.S. Navy’s oversight of its contracts with GDMA.

On Nov. 23, 2010, for example, Pitts forwarded to a representative of GDMA an internal U.S. Navy email discussing FISC’s intention to contact officials with the Royal Thai Navy to determine whether GDMA had been billing the U.S. Navy for services that were in fact rendered by the Thai government.

Pitts admitted to working with Francis and other foreign-defense contractor personnel to help them cover up GDMA’s overcharging practices with respect to providing protection to U.S. Navy forces deployed in the Western Pacific.

So far, 18 of 27 defendants charged in the U.S. Navy bribery and fraud scandal have pleaded guilty.