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Contractor "Fat Leonard" pleads not guilty in Navy bribery scandal

Leonard Francis appeared in federal court and pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and bribery for allegedly showering naval officers with cash and prostitutes in exchange for Navy warships being re-directed to Asian ports he ran
Malaysian tycoon pleads not guilty in U.S. Navy bribery scandal 02:14

(CBS News) SAN DIEGO -- The U.S. Navy suspended a captain Thursday in a growing corruption scandal. He is the sixth Navy official named in the case. A company based in Singapore is accused of bribing Navy officers with cash and prostitutes. The head of that company appeared in federal court Thursday in San Diego.

Leonard Francis pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of conspiracy and bribery. CBS News
Those in the Navy associated with Leonard Francis knew him as "Fat Leonard" for his physical size and for the size of the lavish gifts he allegedly showered on naval officers.

Cash, prostitutes, expensive Cuban cigars and luxury trips overseas -- even tickets to a Lady Gaga concert.

What Francis got in return, according to prosecutors, was U.S. Navy warships, redirected to Asian ports he ran. Francis allegedly overcharged the U.S. to supply those ships with food, fuel and security services.

"We've been in business with this company for, since about 1997, so hundreds of millions of dollars worth of contracts," said Rear Adm. John Kirby, a Navy spokesman.

Francis pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of conspiracy and bribery.

In September, Navy investigators lured the Malaysian tycoon to a meeting in a San Diego hotel, where he was arrested.

Bribery scandal threatens highest levels of U.S. Navy 02:35
Two Navy commanders have been charged with accepting bribes that reached $100,000.

"We believe that there will be more naval officers, and perhaps even Navy civilians, implicated in this scandal as this investigation unfolds," Kirby said.

A Naval investigator is also accused of giving Francis classified information about the case.

According to court documents, the travel arrangements Francis made for the investigator included prostitutes. In an email, Francis sent a woman's picture and asked, "Joyce your kinda Babe?" The investigator replied, "Nice. You bet. Hopefully I'm her kinda guy."

Two Navy admirals are among those placed on leave in the wake of the scandal. Francis' attorney declined to comment on the case.

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