Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Former U.S. Navy Captain Pleads Guilty and Former Master Chief Petty Officer Sentenced in Sweeping U.S. Navy Corruption and Fraud Probe

A retired U.S. Navy captain pleaded guilty to criminal conflict of interest charges and a former U.S. Navy master chief was sentenced to 17 months in prison today on corruption charges.  The defendants are among the latest U.S. Navy officials to plead guilty and be sentenced in the expansive corruption and fraud investigation involving foreign defense contractor Leonard Glenn Francis and his Singapore-based ship husbanding company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA).

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Adam L. Braverman of the Southern District of California, Director Dermot F. O’Reilly of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) and Director Andrew L. Traver of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) made the announcement.

Jeffrey Breslau, 52, of Cumming, Georgia, pleaded guilty to one count of criminal conflict of interest before U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino of the Southern District of California.  Breslau was charged in September 2018.  Retired Master Chief Ricarte Icmat David, 62, of Concepcion, Tarlac, Philippines, was sentenced by Judge Sammartino, who also ordered him to serve a year of supervised release and pay restitution of $30,000.  David was charged in August 2018 and pleaded guilty in September to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud.

According to admissions made as part of his guilty plea, from October 2009 until July 2012, Breslau was a captain in the U.S. Navy assigned as director of public affairs for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, headquartered in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  As part of his duties, Breslau was involved in devising the U.S. Navy’s public affairs communications strategy, and provided public affairs guidance to Pacific Fleet components and other U.S. Navy commands.  From August 2012 until July 2014, Breslau was assigned to the commanding officer for the Joint Public Affairs Support Element in Norfolk, Virginia, where he was responsible for leading joint crisis communications teams.

Breslau admitted that from March 2012 until September 2013, while serving in the above roles for the U.S. Navy, he provided Francis with public relations consulting services, including providing advice on how to respond to issues and controversies related to Francis’s ship husbanding business with the U.S. Navy.  These included issues related to port visit costs, allegations of malfeasance such as the unauthorized dumping of waste, disputes with competitors, and issues with Pacific Fleet and contracting personnel.  During the course of his consulting agreement with Francis, Breslau authored, reviewed or edited at least 33 separate documents; authored at least 135 emails providing advice to Francis; provided at least 14 instances of “talking points” in advance of meetings between Francis and high ranking U.S. Navy personnel; and “ghostwrote” numerous emails on Francis’s behalf to be transmitted to U.S. Navy personnel.  During the course of this consulting agreement, Francis paid Breslau approximately $65,000 without Breslau disclosing the agreement to the U.S. Navy, Breslau admitted.   

As part of his guilty plea, David admitted that he was assigned various logistics positions with the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet, including with the Fleet Industrial Supply Center in Yokosuka, Japan from June 2001 to July 2004; on the USS Essex from July 2004 to August 2007; on the USS Kitty Hawk from September 2007 to August 2008; and on the USS George Washington from September 2008 to July 2010.  In these positions, David was responsible for ordering and verifying goods and services for the ships on which he served, including from contractors during port calls.  Throughout this period, David received from Francis various things of value, including five star hotel rooms during every port visit, he admitted. 

David further admitted that he repeatedly facilitated fraud on the United States by allowing Francis and GDMA to inflate the husbanding invoices to bill for services never rendered.  For example, David instructed Francis to inflate invoices for the USS Essex’s anticipated November 2007 port visit to the Philippines.  As David transitioned to a new position aboard the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, on or about May 8, 2008, Francis’s company paid approximately 84,637.00 Hong Kong Dollars (HKD) for hotel reservations at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong for U.S. Navy personnel assigned to the USS Kitty Hawk including 10,396 HKD for David’s four-night stay in a Harbor View Room, David admitted.

Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 to bribery and fraud charges, admitting that he presided over a massive, decade-long conspiracy involving “scores” of U.S. Navy officials, tens of millions of dollars in fraud and millions of dollars in bribes and lavish gifts, including luxury travel, airline upgrades, five-star hotel accommodations, top-shelf alcohol, the services of prostitutes, Cuban cigars, Kobe beef and Spanish suckling pigs.

So far, 33 defendants have been charged and 22 have pleaded guilty, many admitting to accepting things of value from Francis in exchange for helping the contractor win and maintain contracts and overbill the Navy by millions of dollars.

The case was investigated by DCIS, NCIS and the Defense Contract Audit Agency.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Chief Brian R. Young of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark W. Pletcher, Patrick Hovakimian and Robert Huie of the Southern District of California.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Two Employees of South Korean Conglomerate Charged with Defrauding U.S. Government in Army Base Construction

Two employees of SK Engineering & Construction Co., Ltd. (SK), a large multinational corporation based in the Republic of Korea (South Korea), were charged today with participating in a scheme to defraud the United States by submitting fraudulent subcontracts to conceal bribes and kickbacks paid to an American public official, in relation to U.S. Army construction contracts in South Korea.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant of the Western District of Tennessee, Special Agent in Charge Ray Park of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (Army-CID) Pacific Fraud Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Stan Newell of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), and Assistant Director in Charge Paul D. Delacourt of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office made the announcement.

Hyeong-won Lee, 58, and Dong-Guel Lee, 48, both citizens of South Korea and employees of  SK Engineering & Construction Co., Ltd. (SK), were charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and to commit wire fraud and obstruction of justice, and one count of major fraud against the United States.  Hyeong-won Lee was also charged with two counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering conspiracy, and Dong-Guel Lee was charged with one count of witness tampering in relation to a wide-ranging bribery and fraud scheme from 2008 to 2017.  The defendants are not related.

“Hyeong-won Lee and Dong-Guel Lee allegedly submitted fraudulent construction subcontracts to disguise millions in kickback payments to a public official and then tried to cover their tracks,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski.  “The Department of Justice is dedicated to protecting taxpayer dollars by safeguarding the integrity of government contracts and construction projects that support our U.S. military and civilian personnel, wherever they serve around the world.”

“Protecting the U.S. Treasury and the interests of the federal government abroad is a top priority of this office, and this indictment shows our commitment to hold foreign actors accountable for major fraud committed against the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Dunavant.

According to the indictment, the defendants, acting on behalf of SK, submitted fraudulent subcontracts to the U.S. Army as part of two construction contracts at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, worth hundreds of millions of dollars.  The indictment alleges that the defendants and their co-conspirators used these fraudulent subcontracts to launder millions of dollars in kickbacks for a U.S. public official who had steered two Camp Humphreys construction contracts to SK. 

The indictment also alleges that the defendants obstructed investigations into the scheme.  According to the indictment, Hyeong-won Lee ordered SK employees to destroy documents related to the fraudulent subcontract, and SK employees burned boxes of documents in order to prevent their use by investigators.  The indictment also alleges that Dong-Guel Lee, acting on SK’s behalf, impeded federal investigations by dissuading witnesses from testifying about their knowledge of the scheme.

Army-CID, DCIS, and the FBI are investigating the case.  Assistant Chief Justin Weitz of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony Arvin of the Western District of Tennessee are prosecuting the case.  The Fraud Section is grateful for the assistance of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section in this case.

The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Navy to Christen Expeditionary Fast Transport Puerto Rico

The Navy will christen its newest Expeditionary Fast Transport, the future USNS Puerto Rico (T-EPF 11), during a 10 a.m. CST ceremony Saturday, November 10, at the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Alabama.

The principal speaker is congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón, Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States will serve as the ship’s sponsor. In a time-honored Navy tradition, she will christen the ship by breaking a bottle of sparkling wine across the bow.

“This ship honors the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the contributions Puerto Ricans have made to our nation and Navy and Marine Corps team,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer.  “USNS Puerto Rico will provide our commanders high-speed sealift mobility and agility and I am thankful for this ship, her crew, and our industrial force teammates whose service makes this great ship possible."

The future USNS Puerto Rico, designated T-EPF 11, will be the first active ship in naval service to honor the island in the West Indies east of Hispaniola. An Alaska class cruiser named Puerto Rico (CB-5) was authorized July 19, 1940, but construction was cancelled June 24, 1943.

With an all-aluminum shallow-draft hull, the EPF is a commercial-based catamaran capable of intra-theater personnel and cargo lift providing combatant commanders high-speed sealift mobility with inherent cargo handling capability and agility to achieve positional advantage over operational distances.

EPF class ships are designed to transport 600 short tons of military cargo 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots. The ship is capable of operating in shallow-draft ports and waterways, interfacing with roll-on/roll-off discharge facilities, and on/off-loading a combat-loaded Abrams main battle tank (M1A2).

The EPF includes a flight deck for helicopter operations and an off-load ramp that will allow vehicles to quickly drive off the ship. EPF’s shallow draft (under 15 feet) further enhances littoral operations and port access. This makes the EPF an extremely flexible asset for support of a wide range of operations including maneuver and sustainment, relief operations in small or damaged ports, flexible logistics support, or as the key enabler for rapid transport.

The EPF program delivered its ninth ship late last year, USNS City of Bismarck (T-EPF 9), with delivery of USNS Burlington (EPF 10) planned for mid-November. Puerto Rico (EPF 11) and Newport (EPF 12) are currently under construction at Austal's shipyard.