Thu, Mar 20, 2014 - Page 7 News List

Singaporean man enters guilty plea in US Navy case

AP, SAN DIEGO, California

A manager of a Singapore-based company accused of swindling the US Navy out of millions of dollars pleaded guilty on Tuesday in the case.

Alex Wisidagama entered a guilty plea in a US federal court on Tuesday to one count of conspiracy to defraud the US with respect to claims.

The former general manager of global government contracts for Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd, admitted to knowing the company that serviced ships in the Pacific submitted fictitious claims that resulted in losses to the US Navy exceeding US$20 million.

Wisidagama is the cousin of Leonard Glenn Francis, the company’s CEO, who is known in military circles as “Fat Leonard.”

The two were arrested last year in San Diego during a sting operation by US military investigators, who say Francis offered pricey vacations and prostitute services to US naval officers in exchange for information and advice so that Glenn Defense could overbill the Navy. Francis has pleaded not guilty to the charges and remains in custody in San Diego.

Wisidagama faces up to 10 years in prison and an order of mandatory restitution in sentencing set for June 13.

His lawyer, Knut Johnson, said after the hearing on Tuesday that the plea deal was in Wisidagama’s best interest by capping the prison time, which could have turned into decades if he had been indicted on all the charges in the case. Johnson said he may ask for a prison transfer so Wisidagama, who has a child, can be closer to his family in Singapore.

Johnson declined to say whether his client had agreed to cooperate with the prosecution or whether he may decide to testify against his cousin, saying only: “I would think that would be an emotional issue and not an easy one to make.”

The case involves allegations that US Navy officials accepted the vacations and prostitute services in exchange for providing information and advice to Glenn Defense, including changing ship routes to ports where the company could more easily pull off its scheme.

At least six naval officers have been implicated in the scheme.

Two commanders were arrested and charged. Navy Commander Jose Luis Sanchez and Commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz have entered not-guilty pleas.

Two admirals have lost their security clearances, and two other officials have been relieved of their duties, but none of them were charged.

Wisidagama knew the company submitted hundreds of false bids, allegedly from competitors for items ranging from fuel to trash collection to the US Navy, according to the complaint.

He was also aware that the company inflated fuel prices and submitted invoices for tariffs from nonexistent port authorities so that Glenn Defense could overbill the navy, the complaint says.

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