US Navy commander sentenced to 78 months prison in bribery scandal
By Julie Watson, AP
May 1, 2016, 12:00 am TWN
SAN DIEGO — A Navy commander who fled Cambodia’s killing fields as a boy to grow up to become a decorated U.S. military officer was sentenced Friday to 78 months in prison for providing classified ship schedules in exchange for the services of prostitutes, theater tickets and other gifts from a Malaysian defense contractor.
A U.S. federal judge in San Diego gave Captain-select Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz, 48, the longest sentence handed out so far in one of the worst bribery scandals to rock the Navy. The contractor overbilled the Navy by more than US$34 million.
U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino told the court this offense was “one of the most serious I’ve had on my time on the bench.”
In his plea agreement, Misiewicz acknowledged providing classified information to Leonard Glenn Francis, whose Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia, or GDMA, supplied ships in the Pacific for more than 25 years. Francis, nicknamed “Fat Leonard” because of his wide girth, used the schedules and inside information to beat out competitors and overbill the Navy by submitting fake tariffs and port fees, according to prosecutors.
Misiewicz and Francis moved Navy vessels like chess pieces, diverting aircraft carriers, destroyers and other ships to Asian ports with lax oversight where Francis could inflate costs, the criminal complaint alleges.
Misiewicz is among 10 people charged in the case, including numerous Naval officials.
Navy Criminal Investigative Service agents initiated their probe in 2010. That same year, Misiewicz caught the world’s attention when he made an emotional return as a U.S. Naval commander to his native Cambodia, where he had been rescued as a child from the violence of the Khmer Rouge and adopted by an American woman. His homecoming was widely covered by international media.
Meanwhile, Francis was recruiting him for his scheme, according to court documents.
Misiewicz’s family went to a “Lion King production” in Tokyo with a GDMA employee, and Misiewicz later was offered prostitution services and cash. Francis paid on at least eight occasions for Misiewicz, his mother, brother and children to travel in luxury to the Philippines, Japan, Kuala Lumpur, Cambodia, Singapore and the United States. The businessman also provided his wife with a designer handbag.
From January 2011 to September 2013, Misiewicz provided Francis ship movement schedules for the USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group and other ships, according to court documents. He admitted that he tried to cover up his dealings by using secret, temporary email accounts.
“Misiewicz was respected and revered within the Navy, particularly given his compelling personal story as a Cambodian refugee,” U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said in a statement. “Yet for two years, he lived a double life of deception and dishonesty. This is not just a fall from grace. This is a swan dive off the Empire State Building.”
In December 2011, Misiewicz exchanged emails about the schedule of the USS Blue Ridge, investigators say. According to court documents, Francis wrote Misiewicz: “Bro, Slide a Bali visit in after Jakarta, and Dili Timor after Bali.”
The complaint alleges Misiewicz followed through on the demands: In October 2012, the USS George Washington was scheduled to visit Singapore and instead was redirected by the Navy to Port Klang, Malaysia, one of Francis’ preferred ports where his company submitted fake contractor bids.
After Francis offered Misiewicz five tickets to a Lady Gaga concert in Thailand in 2012, Francis wrote: “Don’t chicken out bro we need u with us on the front lines,” according to court documents.