Navy commander pleads guilty to trading classified info for travel and Lady Gaga tickets
A U.S. Navy commander charged with accepting paid travel, prostitutes and Lady Gaga concert tickets from a Malaysian defense contractor in exchange for classified information pleaded guilty on Thursday to federal corruption charges.
Commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz appeared in U.S. District Court in San Diego to answer to charges of conspiracy to commit bribery and bribery of a public official stemming from his involvement in a scandal surrounding a contractor who serviced ships in the Navy’s Pacific Fleet.
Misiewicz admitted to providing Malaysian businessman Leonard Francis, known to friends as “Fat Leonard,” classified information worth millions of dollars. He was born in Cambodia during the Vietnam War and gained media attention for his rise to captain of a U.S. Navy destroyer.
The information he gave to Francis included ship movements and helping arrange visits by U.S. Navy vessels to ports where Francis’ company, the Singapore-based Glenn Davis Marine Asia Ltd, had contracts to provide tugboats, security, fuel, waste removal and other services, prosecutors said.
In exchange, Francis furnished Misiewicz with such gifts as travel, entertainment, luxury hotel stays and five tickets to a Lady Gaga concert in Thailand in May 2012, the complaint said.
“In exchange for luxury vacations, gifts and other expenses, Commander Misiewicz betrayed his oath, the men and women of the U.S. Navy, and American taxpayers by directing lucrative government contracts to his financial patron,” Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said in a statement.
Francis pleaded guilty to bribery in January 2015 and agreed to forfeit $35 million in ill-gotten gains. According to that plea agreement, Francis paid about $500,000 in bribes to Navy officials.
The complaint against Misiewicz described the two men as developing a close friendship in which Misiewicz referred to Francis by such terms as “Big Brother,” “Big Bro” or “BB” and the defense contractor called him “Little Brother,” “Little Bro” or “LB.”
Misiewicz was formerly a deputy operations officer for the U.S. commander of the Seventh Fleet, which oversees operations over some 48 million square miles extending from Japan to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and from Vladivostok, Russia, to Australia.
He had been commanding officer of the USS Mustin, a forward-deployed guided-missile destroyer, before that assignment.
According to a 2010 U.S. Navy release, Misiewicz grew up near Phnom Penh during the Vietnam war and was adopted by an American woman shortly before the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975.
(Reporting by Marty Graham; Editing by Victoria Cavaliere and Paul Tait)