Admiral gets prison for lying during bribery probe

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Rear Admiral Robert J. Gilbeau

SAN DIEGO — The first active-duty U.S. Navy admiral ever convicted of a federal crime was sentenced Wednesday in San Diego to 18 months in prison for lying to investigators to conceal his illicit 20-year relationship with Leonard Glenn Francis, the foreign defense contractor at the center of a massive bribery and fraud scandal.

U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Robert Gilbeau — who is free on bond — was ordered to report for custody on June 23.

Gilbeau, 56, pleaded guilty to making false statements, admitting that he lied when he told federal agents that he never received any gifts from Francis, owner of Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia. The company provided ship husbanding services such as trash and sewage removal, food, water, security and fuel to U.S. Navy ships.

“This is the first time our nation will incarcerate a Navy admiral for a federal crime committed during the course of his official duty, and it is truly a somber day,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Alana W. Robinson.

“When tempted by parties and prostitutes, one of our most respected leaders chose karaoke over character, and cover-up over confession, and in doing so he forever tarnished the reputation of a revered institution,” she said.

According to the government sentencing memo, Gilbeau first met Francis when Gilbeau served aboard the USS Boxer in 1997. During a multi-day port visit to Bali, Indonesia, Francis plied Gilbeau and another U.S. Navy officer with hotel rooms, dinners and the services of prostitutes.

In 2003, when the pair became reacquainted, Gilbeau was serving on the USS Nimitz. He again accepted hotel rooms, lavish dinners and prostitutes from Francis on several occasions, prosecutors said.

After several of those escapades, Gilbeau personally approved GDMA invoices which inflated the charges to the U.S. Navy. In one instance, Gilbeau signed an invoice for the removal of wastewater from the ship during the port visit to Singapore in October 2003.

Based on Gilbeau’s signature, the Navy paid for the highest per-day volumes of wastewater removal in the history of the USS Nimitz. In return, evidence in the investigation suggests GDMA kicked back $40,000 cash to Gilbeau, who denied the allegation.

According to the sentencing memo, after the arrests of Francis and others in 2013, Gilbeau, while serving in Afghanistan, asked for direction on how to wipe clean his electronic devices; refused to meet with others unless they removed the batteries from their cell phones; removed his aides’ access to his U.S. Navy email accounts; and destroyed and/or deleted paper records and computer files.

Twenty current and former Navy officials have been charged so far in the fraud and bribery investigation; 10, including Glenn, have pleaded guilty and 10 cases are pending. In addition, five GDMA executives and GDMA the corporation have pleaded guilty.