U.S. Officers’ Bribery Charges Dismissed Due to Prosecutor Mistakes: Report


San Diego Federal Judge Janis Sammartino reportedly dismissed the felony pleas of five retired military officers who admitted to accepting bribes from the Malaysian defense contractor known as “Fat Leonard.”

Retired U.S. Navy officers Donald Hornbeck, Robert Gorsuch and Jose Luis Sanchez, and U.S. Marine Corps Col. Enrico DeGuzman pleaded guilty to disclosing information, a misdemeanor, Tuesday, The Associated Press (AP) reports. The case of the fifth officer, Stephen Shedd of the Navy, was reportedly dismissed in its entirety.

The officers admitted in court to trading classified information for luxury goods, money, travel perks, food and sex workers, KPBS reports. The bribes reportedly amounted to nearly $400,000 in total from “Fat Leonard,” whose real name is Leonard Francis.

But significant errors on the part of prosecution forced Sammartino to dismiss the felony convictions, multiple outlets report.

Prosecutorial “misconduct started (the) unraveling of this case,” she said, The San Diego Union Tribune reports. She reportedly called it an “extremely unfortunate” situation that was “all the government’s making.”

Sammartino criticized the U.S. Attorney’s Office for its “significant misconduct” and failures to communicate with military and civilian personnel, according to the Tribune. She called the deterioration of the case an “embarrassment to the government,” the outlet reported.

In their legal filings, prosecutors stated that the dismissals ought not to be viewed as suggesting the defendants were innocent of the felonies that had been dismissed, the AP reports. Sammartino reportedly found the former lead federal prosecutor to have committed “flagrant misconduct” by keeping information from defense counsel in 2022.

“Nothing is saying these men are not guilty,” Sammartino stated, according to KPBS.

Francis bribed numerous influential military officials for decades to obtain classified schedules for Navy vessels in the region of the western Pacific and false invoices with Navy officers’ signatures, KPBS reports. He would then charge commanders a premium for his services after persuading them to redirect their ships to supply ports he controlled, ultimately swindling no less than $35 million from the fleet, according to prosecutors, the AP reports.

Francis pleaded guilty to offering more than $500,000 of cash bribes, additional gifts and sex events to Navy officials, defense contractors and additional individuals in Southeast Asia, according to the outlet. In 2022, Francis reportedly absconded from house arrest in San Diego weeks prior to his sentencing hearing and was extradited back to the U.S. after his capture in Venezuela.

Francis is due in court to set a date for his sentencing in a matter of weeks, the AP reports.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California did not respond to Truth Voices in time for publication.

Lisa Moore
Lisa Moore
Lisa Moore is a Canadian writer and editor established in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

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