Navy officer becomes witness in corruption case echoing ‘Fat Leonard’ scandal

A naval officer has become a cooperating witness in an alleged corruption case involving a contractor and port services in Bahrain resembling the ‘Fat Leonard’ scandal that trapped senior sailors and others, according to court documents no sealed.

Military investigators allege that Frank Rafaraci, the general manager of Multinational Logistics Services, or MLS, defrauded the Navy of at least $ 50 million by inflating bills for marine services between 2011 and 2018, according to the documents.

Defense Criminal Investigative Service agents told a U.S. District Court that the scheme was made possible not only by a network of shell companies and encrypted emails, but also by bribes to the anonymous official. of the Navy, who, according to the documents, is still an officer of the service.

Rafaraci was arrested in Malta after an international manhunt, and the Justice Department is working to extradite him, according to the Washington Post, which first reported the case. He faces four counts in federal court, including bribery and conspiracy charges for fraud and money laundering, according to court records.

The U.S. Navy and other federal agencies have awarded approximately $ 1.3 billion in contracts to MLS for port services since 2010.

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The sailor in the case has pleaded guilty to “one count of conspiracy to commit bribes and is cooperating with the government investigation in the hope of obtaining a favorable review of a potential sentence,” according to the documents.

The sailor was a maritime liaison officer for the navy in Manama, Bahrain, from 2006 to present, with a hiatus of several years when it appears the unnamed individual went to work for the U.S. military.

The arrest warrant alleges that Rafaraci paid the sailor two bribes, one in 2015 and the other in 2018.

The first bribe came at a meeting at the Diplomat Hotel in Manama when Rafaraci handed over an envelope filled with $ 20,000 in cash and told the sailor “he would be in touch and for” continue the good work “”, according to court documents. .

Three years later, Rafaraci met this sailor again, this time at a Miami hotel, and handed him an envelope containing $ 13,500, according to the arrest warrant.

The sailor in question has since been arrested and pleaded guilty in June to a corruption charge in U.S. District Court in Washington, agreeing to become a cooperative witness for the government, court documents show. The identity of the person and his criminal record, however, remain under seal.

Details cited in Rafaraci’s arrest warrant show the scale of the alleged fraud. An example in the court document shows that when MLS was hired to provide docking services to the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson during a stopover in Manama in January 2015, the company charged the Navy $ 231,114.

“MLS accounting records, however, indicate that MLS only paid $ 12,686 to the Manama Port Authority,” the warrant reads.

Another port visit by the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt to Manama in January 2018 cost the Navy $ 325,276, but the MLS only paid port officials $ 177,922, according to court documents.

When asked to comment, spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Andrew DeGarmo told Military.com in an email that the Navy “expects all people and companies with which it does business to act with the highest degree of integrity and to have effective standards of conduct.” , but that the service would not comment further during an investigation.

The case bears some similarities to the massive and high-profile corruption scandal involving Leonard Glenn “Fat Leonard” Francis, owner of Glenn Defense Marine Asia, a defense outsourcing company.

This ordeal, which dates back more than a decade, has resulted in accusations of corruption and fraud against several high-ranking officers and high-ranking seafarers, as well as letters of reprimand and reprimand.

Francis has assembled a network of at least 200 Navy personnel, ranging from admirals to Navy criminal investigation officers, to help extract at least $ 35 million in inflated and fraudulent service contracts from the Navy. Harbor. In 2019, nearly three dozen people were charged in connection with the case and 22 pleaded guilty.

Leonard himself pleaded guilty in federal court in January 2015 and began to cooperate with investigators, but he has yet to be convicted.

– Konstantin Toropin can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @ktoropin.

Related: ‘Fat Leonard’ in upcoming podcast boasts of holding the US Navy in the palm of his hand

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