VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — A former Navy officer played a key role in the growing bribery scandal in which officers took lavish gifts from a contractor that serviced American ships overseas, according to recently unsealed federal court documents.
Former Chief Warrant Officer Robert “Bob” Gorsuch, 49, allegedly passed along ship schedules on two occasions to Leonard Francis, also known as “Fat Leonard” for his wide girth. Gorsuch, of Virginia Beach, also set up a secret email account to plot with the Malaysian ship contractor and helped vet other potential conspirators in the Navy, court records said.
During an exchange in 2007, Gorsuch and others officers had a $12,000 dinner with Francis in in Sydney, Australia, prosecutors said. Francis paid for the scallops, fois gras and beef loin— and Gorsuch gave him the information on computer disks.
Francis owned the Singapore-based company Glenn Defense Marine Asia. It provided fuel, food and trash removal to Navy ships at various ports in Asia, including Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Gorsuch is among nine current and former military officers charged in the latest indictment. The officers called themselves the Lion King’s Harem, the Wolfpack, the Cool Kids and the Brotherhood. They scouted for others who might also accept sex, trips and other lavish perks from Francis in exchange for classified information.
Reached by phone Wednesday, Gorsuch says he was working on hiring a lawyer, but would not comment further. Court records say he was released on $10,000 unsecured bond in Norfolk. He must appear in a San Diego federal court on March 21.
Gorsuch spent 25 years in the Navy before retiring in 2010, according to the Navy Office of Information. He served on submarines and at the White House during his career, earning various medals along the way. His last assignment was at Naval Air Forces Atlantic in Norfolk.
During the time of the alleged conspiracy in 2007 and 2008, he provided administrative support to the Seventh Fleet Commander and other senior officers. His base pay would have been more than $4,000 a month, according to pay charts from 2008.
In 2007, Gorsuch allegedly wrote to Francis: “Bob here. Just got turned on to this third party email website that the military folks can’t block or track.”
During another email exchange, Gorsuch discussed newly arrived officers to the 7th Fleet who might want to join in on the scheme, according to court records. Gorsuch told Francis there was doubt about one’s ability to “keep his mouth shut about fine dining. . . . still working on it.”
To date, 13 defendants have pleaded guilty, including an admiral who was sentenced in June and is believed to be the first active-duty Naval flag officer charged in federal court. Other cases are pending.
Five executives of Francis’ company also have been charged. Francis has pleaded guilty to fraud and is awaiting sentencing.
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