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Former Navy captain in the US Seventh Fleet admits he was bribed with lavish meals and sex workers by a foreign defense contractor

U.S. Navy sailors.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

  • A former Navy captain pleaded guilty to accepting nearly $68,000 in bribes from a foreign contractor. 
  • Donald Hornbeck accepted dinners, parties, and sex workers from businessman Leonard Glenn Francis.
  • The “Fat Leonard” bribery scandal has led to the indictment of dozens of military officials.

A former Navy captain pleaded guilty to bribery on Wednesday for accepting nearly $68,000 in luxury hotel rooms, dinners, alcohol-fueled parties, and sex workers from a Singapore-based defense contractor.

In his plea agreement, Donald Hornbeck, 61, admitted to accepting the gifts from Malaysian businessman Leonard Glenn Francis, nicknamed “Fat Leonard.”

In exchange, Hornbeck shared confidential information with Francis and helped steer Seventh Fleet business to ports services by Francis’ ship husbanding company that serviced US Navy ships in the Asia Pacific region.

Authorities say that Francis overbilled the Navy over the years by over $35 million.

According to the Department of Justice, Francis picked up the bill for Hornbeck and others in Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Bangkok, Thailand, treating them and treated them to lavish dinners of Wagyu beef lobster and caviar in top restaurants.  In May 2008, in Manilla, the Philippines, he paid for a “multi-day party” that included sex workers. 

Earlier that month, Francis hosted dinner at Mezza9 in Singapore, after which, Francis arranged for several prostitutes to entertain Hornbeck and others, said the DoJ. The following day, Hornbeck emailed Francis to say thank you for a fantastic dinner. “Also really enjoyed my new Mongolian Friend,” a reference to a sex worker, to which Francis noted: “Hot Mongolian [B]arbeque Ribs!” 

“While scores of Navy officials were partying with Leonard Francis, a massive breach of national security was in full swing,” US Attorney Randy Grossman said in a statement.

“Today, another participant has admitted that he lost his way, allowing greed to replace honor and duty as the driving force in his life.”

Hornbeck’s guilty plea is the latest in a sprawling Navy bribery and corruption scandal, which has led to the indictment of 34 military officials, of which 29 have pleaded guilty.

Leonard Glenn Francis, the Malaysian businessman at the heart of the scandal, pleaded guilty in 2015 to $500,000 in bribes but has yet to be sentenced.

Hornbeck faces up to 15 years in prison and a fine of  $250,000 at his sentencing on September 8.

He was one of nine members of the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet indicted by a federal grand jury in March 2017 for conspiring with Francis and receiving bribes, and the fourth to plead guilty.

Francis is reportedly set to appear as a star witness for the prosecution in the criminal trial of six naval officers due to begin in February 2022.

He has also previously claimed that he secretly videotaped Navy officers with sex workers he recruited. 

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