I don’t watch the TV show NCIS. But I get the premise: clean-cut agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigate crimes in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. The agents are the good guys. The bad guys . . . are, well, the other people.
Turns out, the good guys may not always be so good after all.
In a recently-unsealed criminal complaint in the Southern District of California, a real-life NCIS supervisory agent, John B. Beliveau, was charged with conspiracy to commit bribery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. Agent Beliveau’s co-defendant is Leonard Glenn Francis, CEO and President of Glenn Defense Marine (Asia) (“GDMA”). Mr. Francis allegedly bribed Agent Beliveau for information related to NCIS’s on-going investigation into GDMA’s fraud against the government.
Much of the case is circumstantial but Mr. Francis and Agent Beliveau may have a hard time explaining many of the government’s allegations.
What is “Husbanding”?
GDMA is part of a group of companies under the umbrella name Glenn Marine Group, based in Singapore. According to the affidavit in support of the complaint, GDMA is a general contractor to the Navy. One of GDMA’s primary services provided to the Navy is the “husbanding” of marine vessels. Husbanding
involves the coordinating, scheduling and direct and indirect procurement of items and services required by ships and submarines when they arrive at port. Examples of items and services required by ships and submarines when in port include tugboats, fenders, port authority/custom fees, security, provisions (food), fuel, water, trash removal, collection holding and transfer of liquid waste (“CHT”), transportation and many others.
Husbanding is big business; the government hands out major contracts for this type of work to private contractors.
NCIS Investigation Into GDMA
In July 2010, NCIS began an investigation into GDMA’s possible submission of false charges on invoices to the Navy from its husbanding services. GDMA had submitted invoices that included $110,000 in wharfage and dockage fees at a port in Thailand when Navy ships were docked there during a military exercise. These fees caught the Navy’s attention because the Royal Thai Navy had agreed that the U.S. Navy would not be charged any such fees during that exercise.
Relationship Between Mr. Francis and Agent Beliveau
In 2008, Agent Beliveau was assigned to a base in Singapore, which is apparently when he met Mr. Francis. They remained in contact after 2008 by email and, largely, by text.
According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, Agent Beliveau used Mr. Francis’ travel agent to book a trip to Bangkok in early March 2011. However, none of Agent Beliveau’s financial records show that he paid for the trip himself. So, the government concludes, Mr. Francis must have paid for the trip.
Mr. Francis apparently also arranged for a “female escort” for Agent Beliveau, sending him a picture with an email that read “Joyce your kinda Babe?” Mr. Francis paid for three days of the escort’s time.
Shortly after his Bangkok trip, Agent Beliveau allegedly provided Mr. Francis with information about NCIS’s investigation into GDMA. For example, the affidavit quotes an email purportedly from Agent Beliveau reporting that NCIS would be interviewing a GDMA employee and telling Mr. Francis
Remember what we discussed regarding how [GDMA vice president NP] can handle this? Let’s talk.
The affidavit goes on to detail the number of times Agent Beliveau accessed “K-NET,” NCIS’s secure computer system where NCIS agent filed reports about ongoing investigations. Between December 2011 and August 2013, Agent Beliveau
gained access to K-NET on 13 occasions, over which he executed 35 unique search queries for information relating to GDMA and FRANCIS, using a variety of search terms.
It’s important to note that Agent Beliveau was not involved in the investigation into GDMA. Based on his K-NET searches, Agent Beliveau viewed 221 documents related to the GDMA investigation and saved 125 of them to his computer. At times, according to the affidavit, he used his CD burner, suggesting that he “burned each set of investigative reports to CDs so that he could easily transport them out of the NCIS office space.”
The government does not appear to have proof that he did so or proof that Agent Beliveau gave the CDs to Mr. Francis. In fact, the agent who signed the affidavit does say that he “do[es] not have direct proof that BELIVEAU gave FRANCIS the downloaded NCIS reports or other information from K-NET.”
However, the affidavit reports that Mr. Francis and Agent Beliveau exchanged 1146 text messages and that 159 of them occurred on days surrounding when Agent Beliveau accessed K-NET to run GDMA searches. The government does not have the substance of those text messages, however, and has been unable to obtain the substance of them from the cell phone service provider.
The only other alleged bribe paid by Mr. Francis to Agent Beliveau involved a multi-week trip that Agent Beliveau took in late 2013 to various destinations in Asia. According to the government, “there is no evidence that BELIVEAU paid for this trip” but he did use Mr. Francis’ travel agent to book the trip.
The Second Complaint Against Mr. Francis
Mr. Francis was also charged in a second criminal complaint for allegedly bribing a Navy Commander named Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz. According to the affidavit supporting the complaint, he would bribed Captain Misiewicz to gain advance access to ship schedules. By steering Navy ships to certain ports so that GDMA could “submit fraudulent competitor quotes at higher prices for [certain] services.” Mr. Francis allegedly bribed Captain Misiewicz with gifts such as travel, entertainment (including Lady Gaga tickets)and prostitutes.
It will be interesting to see whether the three defendants will ultimately be charged with bribery (statutory max of 15 years) in addition to conspiracy (statutory max of 5 years). Also, given the similarities in the bribery scheme for both Navy officers, it remains to be seen whether other Navy officers will be charged. It’s also possible that the government will indict GDMA, either for the bribery scheme or for the underlying fraud that was investigated by NCIS.