US Navy ‘Fat Leonard’ scandal: Retired aircraft carrier commander censured

The biggest corruption scandal in US Navy history has tarnished the career of another admiral.

Capt. Kenneth J. Norton, commanding officer USS Ronald Reagan, carries the colors at the conclusion of a burial at sea ceremony aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan. The ceremony honors departed Sailors, Marines and their spouces casting them to their final resting places in the sea. Ronald Reagan is currently underway in the Pacific Ocean conducting Tailoed Ships Training Availability. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Stephen M. Votaw)

Retired Rear. Adm. Kenneth Norton has been given a Secretarial Letter of Censure for his role in the so-called Fat Leonard scandal, the Navy said in a statement Wednesday.

The scandal, which stretches back to at least 2007, centers on former defense contractor Leonard Glenn “Fat Leonard” Francis. His Singapore-based company Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA) provided services to Navy ships including fuel and tugboats at Asian ports.

Norton, while serving as commander of the Japan-based aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan during 2008-2010, “was found to have repeatedly and improperly accepted gifts from GDMA,” according to a statement from Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer.

“Further, Norton’s personal behavior was found to have constituted conduct unbecoming an officer,” the Navy statement said.

Norton retired from the Navy in 2014.

The statement did not indicate any specific gifts or behaviors related to his time in command of the Reagan.

“The review concluded that he intentionally disregarded the ethical standards long established for the naval service and brought ill-repute and disgrace upon the U.S. Navy,” Spencer’s statement said.

Norton is the second commander of the Reagan to be censured in the “Fat Leonard” scandal. In 2015, Rear Adm. Terry Kraft, was censured by then-Navy Secretary Ray Mabus for improper interactions with GDMA in 2006-2007, according to a Navy statement. Kraft has since retired.

According to the Navy’s Judge Advocate General manual, letters of censure are administrative, not punitive. But they can become part of an officer’s record and damage careers and chances for promotion.

Since the “Fat Leonard” investigation began in 2013, 20 current and former Navy officials have been charged in the fraud and bribery investigation stretching across Asia. Federal prosecutors allege it has cost millions of US taxpayer dollars.

Navy officials have been accused of accepting cash, prostitutes and all-expenses-paid trips in exchange for steering ships to ports where Francis’ company operated. Francis pleaded guilty to bribery charges in 2015.

In March 2017, acting US Attorney Alana Robinson described the “Fat Leonard” scandal as “fleecing and betrayal of the United States Navy in epic proportions, (which) was allegedly carried out by the Navy’s highest-ranking officers.”

The Washington Post reported in early November that the Navy is reviewing the actions of 440 more active-duty and retired personnel in connections with the scandal. According to the report, 60 current and former admirals are included in the review.

The Navy said Wednesday the investigation of GDMA continues, led by the Department of Justice with the US Attorney Office in San Diego leading prosecutions.

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