US Navy official enters guilty plea in contracting scandal

SAN DIEGO (REUTERS) - A US Navy official pleaded guilty on Tuesday to conspiracy and bribery charges, admitting he received envelopes of cash and the services of prostitutes from a Singapore-based company at the centre of a military contracting scandal.

John Bertrand Beliveau II, a supervisor in the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, entered his plea at a hearing in federal court in San Diego. "I'm here to do the right thing, and that's what I did today," he said after entering his guilty plea.

With his guilty plea, Beliveau became the first to be convicted among four people charged in the bribery scandal involving US Navy contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars in maintenance and restocking for Pacific Fleet ships. The investigation has resulted in conspiracy charges against Leonard Glenn Francis, a Malaysian and owner of Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia. Francis, 49, has pleaded not guilty and is in federal custody in San Diego.

Beliveau, who was arrested in September, was accused of accepting money, travel and hotel costs from Francis for trips to Thailand and Indonesia, where he was provided with prostitutes, according to charging documents. As part of the plea deal, prosecutors on Tuesday filed a new indictment against Beliveau, charging him with conspiracy and bribery. He had originally been charged with conspiracy to commit bribery.

Beliveau faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and US$250,000 (S$314,627) in fines, said his attorney Gretchen Von Helms. Prosecutors have said in court they are developing other cases against Francis and employees of his company. Beliveau's attorney declined to say whether or not Beliveau is cooperating with prosecutors.

Beliveau, in the plea deal, admitted that he had tipped off Francis to investigations of his company by the NCIS.

Beliveau was not assigned to the NCIS investigations of Glenn Defense Marine Asia, his attorney said. He became involved with Francis in 2010, while the NCIS was investigating the submission of false or inflated bills and complaints the company had demanded kickbacks from its subcontractors.

Beliveau admitted he gave Francis at least 76 internal NCIS reports and "provided counsel to him on how to respond to, stall and thwart the investigations", according to the plea agreement.

In exchange, he received travel and dinners worth thousands of dollars, at least five envelopes of cash and the services of prostitutes, the document said. At one point, according to court papers, Beliveau sent Francis a note that said, "You give whores more money than you give me... I can be your best friend or your worst enemy."

Ms Von Helms said Beliveau was used by Francis. "This was a mistake generated by Mr Francis who knows a man's weaknesses and how to exploit them," she said.

Beliveau is set to be sentenced on March 7, but that will likely be delayed, Ms Von Helms said. He is free on US$30,000 bond.

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