High profile U.S. Navy commander charged in bribery case
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A high profile U.S. Navy commander has been charged with accepting paid travel, the services of prostitutes and Lady Gaga concert tickets from a Singapore-based defense contractor in exchange for classified information, prosecutors said on Wednesday.
Commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz, who was born in Cambodia during the Vietnam War and gained media attention for his rise to captain of a U.S. Navy destroyer, was arrested earlier this week on federal bribery charges.
Also taken into custody and charged in criminal complaints unsealed in U.S. district court in San Diego on Tuesday were Leonard Glenn Francis, the defense contractor, and John Bertrand Beliveau II, a special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
Prosecutors accused Misiewicz, 46, of sending Francis classified information, including ship movements, and helping arrange visits by U.S. Navy vessels to ports where Francis' company, Glenn Davis Marine Asia Ltd, had contracts to provide tugboats, security, fuel, waste removal and other services. Those contracts were worth hundreds of millions of dollars, prosecutors said.
In exchange, Francis furnished Misiewicz with such gifts as travel, entertainment, luxury hotel stays and prostitutes, prosecutors alleged. According to the criminal complaint, the defense contractor provided Misiewicz with five tickets to a Lady Gaga concert in Thailand in May 2012.
The complaint also 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."
At the time, Misiewicz was 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.
Prior to that assignment, he had been commanding officer of the USS Mustin, a forward-deployed guided-missile destroyer.
A separate criminal complaint charged Francis with providing Beliveau, 44, travel, entertainment, prostitutes and other gifts in exchange for information about an NCIS investigation into his company.
Prosecutors charged Beliveau with downloading confidential reports about that probe from the agency's database and conveying that information to Francis.
On Monday, Francis was arrested in San Diego, while Misiewicz was taken into custody in Colorado and Beliveau in Virginia. All three face a maximum of five years in federal prison if convicted at trial.
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.
The Navy said in the release that a visit by the USS Mustin to Sihanoukville, Cambodia, in December 2010 marked his first return to that country since his adoption 37 years earlier.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Steve Orlofsky)