A defense contractor who is the central figure in a wide-ranging Navy bribery scandal pleaded guilty on Thursday to providing cash, prostitutes, free hotel rooms and gifts worth millions of dollars to gain maintenance and supply contracts in Asian ports that overbilled the Navy by $20 million.
In a federal court in San Diego, Leonard Francis, known by his nickname “Fat Leonard,” pleaded guilty to bribery and fraud charges related to a decade-long conspiracy to gain the contracts that he said involved “scores” of U.S. Navy officials. Francis was the CEO of Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA) a Singapore-based company that provided fuel, supplies, tugboats and sewage disposal to U.S. Navy ships when they arrived in ports.
“Francis admitted that he gave millions of dollars in extravagant gifts and expenses to Navy officials including $500,000 in cash; hundreds of thousands of dollars in prostitution services; travel expenses, including first class airfare, luxurious hotel stays and spa treatments.”
Leonard gave the Navy officials lavish gifts to gain classified information about the scheduled movement of U.S. Navy ships in Asia so he could block out competitors and then overbill the Navy for his company’s services, prosecutors said.
“He also provided officials with lavish meals, including Kobe beef, Spanish suckling pigs, Cuban cigars, designer handbags and even tickets to a Lady Gaga concert.”
Francis admitted that he gave millions of dollars in extravagant gifts and expenses to Navy officials including $500,000 in cash; hundreds of thousands of dollars in prostitution services; travel expenses, including first class airfare, luxurious hotel stays and spa treatments. He also provided officials with lavish meals, including Kobe beef, Spanish suckling pigs, Cuban cigars, designer handbags and even tickets to a Lady Gaga concert.
“It is astounding that Leonard Francis was able to purchase the integrity of Navy officials by offering them meaningless material possessions and the satisfaction of selfish indulgences. In sacrificing their honor, these officers helped Francis defraud their country out of tens of millions of dollars. Now they will be held to account.”
— U.S. Attorney Laura E Duffy
When sentenced in April Francis could face up to 25 years in prison. In admitting his guilt he and his company agreed to repay the Navy $35 million. He has been cooperating with investigators and additional Naval officials may be implicated.
So far the investigation has involved eight Navy officials, including a Naval Criminal Services Investigative Services (NCIS) agent who would tip Francis off to ongoing investigations into his conduct.
WASHINGTON — With President Obama announcing major shifts to diplomatic relations with the island nation of Cuba, it’s going to get easier to find the one of the country’s most renowned exports:
In the changing relations, the “number of steps to significantly increase travel, commerce, and the flow of information to and from Cuba,” will increase, diplomatic officials told reporters Wednesday.
American citizens will be also authorized to import additional good from Cuba.
The ease of travel and commercial restrictions may soon result in more Cuban cigars in the country. Relaxed commercial restrictions may facilitate the ability to do exports by making the general process easier, as well as more travelers from Cuba bringing back the famed smoking sticks. Read the rest of this entry »
“If I cannot smoke cigars in heaven,
I shall not go!”
– attributed to Mark Twain
Jonah Goldberg writes: If you have read my articles for this magazine, or if you perused my last book, you may have detected the vague scent of tobacco wafting up from it. That is because I can often be found at my office away from the office: the cigar shop (specifically, Signature Cigars in Washington, D.C., the capital’s best tobacconist). When not there, I can often be found on the twelfth-floor balcony of the American Enterprise Institute, also with stogie in hand. A friend and former colleague and I gave this balcony a nickname, “The Remnant,” in homage to Albert Jay Nock’s notion of an irreducible sliver of right-thinking humanity separate and apart from the “Neolithic” masses.
Nock’s was a thoroughly elitist conception, which is ironic, since smoking cigars may be the most democratic thing I do. At the cigar shop, the clientele is mixed in nearly every way, though you wouldn’t say it “looks like America.” A large proportion of the African-American regulars are D.C. cops. In terms of professions, the crowd leans a bit too heavily toward lawyers (as does the nation’s capital). But there’s no shortage of contractors, manual laborers, college students, and retirees.
Politically, there are all types. As far as I can tell, the most ideologically conservative regular (me included) is a federal employee. The gender mix is thoroughly lopsided, of course. Women do occasionally come into the shop, but when they do, all eyes go up as if a unicorn had sauntered into a library. Dennis Prager, another gentleman of the leaf, has written that cigar shops may be the last place in America where men can congregate and talk as men. It’s not discrimination, mind you, it’s just that cigar smoke tends to have the same effect on the fairer sex that it has on mosquitoes.
What unites us all is a fondness for — or craving for — cigars, not tobacco per se mind you, but cigars. It is generally frowned upon to smoke cigarettes in a cigar shop. Pipes may be welcome (I for one think they have the best aroma), but I don’t think I have ever seen one smoked in a cigar shop, even though nearly all good tobacconists sell pipes and their associated sundries.
In football (a subject of near-constant discussion at the cigar shop) there’s a saying, “Watch the ball, not the man.” With cigars, something similar is at work. The camaraderie follows the leaf. On the road, I will often be seen outside my hotel preparing for a speech or writing a column with cigar in hand. Invariably another cigar smoker will catch the scent and, at a minimum, nod his appreciation. Often he will strike up a conversation about what I’m smoking or where there might be a good cigar shop in the area. One thing he will never do is ask for a cigar. Cigars are things of real value, emotionally and financially, and when they are given away, it’s as a gift. Cigarettes are filthy commodities shared among a lesser genus of addicts. There’s a reason it’s called “bumming a cigarette.”
Indeed, the similarities between cigars and cigarettes are more limited than you might think. For starters, you don’t inhale the smoke from cigars, at least not intentionally, which is one reason why the risks of lung cancer for cigar smokers are tiny when compared with those for cigarette smokers. Sadly, this fact often causes cigarette smokers to take up cigars, only to discover that they can’t kick the habit of inhaling, a practice that horrifies cigar aficionados and doctors alike.