Navy corruption trial enters final stage

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The biggest corruption scandal in the history of the Navy could finally come to an end with the start of the hearings Thursday in the so-called Fat Leonard case.

More than two dozen officers have been caught up in the long-running corruption probe. Most of the officers pleaded guilty to helping Leonard Francis defraud the United States Navy. After 14 weeks, the trial of the last five indicted naval officers is coming to an end, with Francis, also known as Fat Leonard, never having spoken.

The Malaysian contractor directed the navy to Western Pacific ports operated by his company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia. Leonard eventually pleaded guilty in 2015 to overcharging the US government by at least $35 million.

In closing arguments Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Pletcher focused the jury on emails sent between the defendants, Francis and other officers who have already pleaded guilty in the nearly decade-long corruption investigation.

The defendants are accused of releasing dozens of classified documents to allow Francis to track the movements of the 7th Fleet.

“The defendants took care of Leonard Francis because, time and time again, he took care of them,” Pletcher said.

The trial focused on a period from 2006 to 2013, when Francis was arrested in San Diego.

In exchange for sensitive information, Francis paid for lavish parties in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Manila, stays in posh hotels, luxury items and high-end champagne.

Prosecutors said each officer played a different role in an overall conspiracy. Rear Admiral Bruce Loveless, the highest ranking officer on trial, is accused of accepting bribes. Lawyers for each defendant begin closing arguments on Monday.

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