At a U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service office in Singapore, agents were ramping up their investigation into overbilling, bribery and fraud by one of Southeast Asia’s most prominent defense contractors.
It would become the largest fraud case in modern Navy history.
As agents submitted status reports on witnesses, wiretaps and other investigative leads into the agency’s internal database, one of their colleagues who sat at a desk nearby secretly began to slip the information to the man at the center of the investigation, “Fat” Leonard Francis.
The betrayal by NCIS Supervisory Agent John Beliveau II helped Francis stay one step ahead of investigators and continue his massive scheme to defraud the Navy. Until they got caught.
On Friday, Beliveau was sentenced in San Diego federal court to 12 years in prison. He decided it was best to be taken immediately into custody to begin serving his term.
“He sold out his service and sold out his country,” Assistant Chief Brian Young of the U.S. Attorney’s Office told the judge during the hearing, using the mob term “consigliere” to describe Beliveau as Francis’ close adviser.
“He did horrendous damage to this investigation.”
Besides the prison term, Beliveau, 47, was ordered to pay $20 million in restitution, an amount to be shared by other defendants in the case.
Beliveau was the first in what is now a long line of defendants to plead guilty to taking bribes from Francis in exchange for sensitive information that benefited Francis and his Glenn Defense Marine Asia contracting company. The investigation also uncovered a nearly $35 million scheme to overbill the Navy for services that the company provided to visiting ships, such as security, supplies and trash removal.
The investigation has taken down 11 current and former Navy officers and employees, as well as five GDMA figures, including Francis. Other high ranking naval officers have been disciplined over their ties to the larger-than-life contractor, who was legendary in naval circles for years for plying overseas military men with prostitutes, booze and posh parties.
Most of the guilty were in similar logistics positions aboard Navy ships, and at Francis’ prompting provided him with ship schedules and other intelligence to help steer Navy contracts his way.
Beliveau’s role was markedly different.
He had been working in Singapore since 2008, part of a team to help keep visiting Navy ships secure in the region. By the time he met Francis, he was recovering from several physical illnesses, recurring bouts of obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder from witnessing a gang member get beheaded in East Timor, and loneliness — vulnerabilities Francis preyed on, said Beliveau’s defense attorney, Jessica Carmichael.
He was self-medicating with alcohol and prostitutes, and welcomed the attention of the wealthy and charismatic Francis, the lawyer said.
“He needed a friend, and Leonard Francis exploited that. He needed a numbing agent, and Leonard Francis provided those,” Carmichael told the court. “He was weak, lonely, suffering from physical ailments and mental torture, and Francis knew it and he exploited it.”
The bribery started after Francis invited Beliveau to dinner, where the contractor showed him a leaked NCIS report and asked for Beliveau’s thoughts, Carmichael said.
According to sentencing papers, Beliveau said he didn’t report the matter to his superiors, explaining: “I felt attached to him. I told him to clean up his act and that this would minimize this risk. … I should’ve gone right to my boss but was afraid that the drinks and the prostitution would come out. Mainly, I just thought it would all go away, and I believed him when he said that he hadn’t done anything.”
Pretty soon Francis was asking Beliveau to retrieve confidential information on the investigations, and giving the agent more prostitutes, fancy hotel rooms and alcohol as a reward.
Prosecutors say beginning in 2011 Beliveau accessed the NCIS database 14 times looking for the files. In one month alone, he slipped Francis 80 reports.
The leak compromised identities of cooperating witnesses — including two low-level GDMA employees who’d agreed to secretly record conversations in the office — as well as prompted real-time warnings about covert actions by agents, prosecutors said.
“I have 30 reports for u, not good, ur girl in Thailand (messed) up and got caught on tape,” Beliveau messaged Francis.
Revealing witness identities, as well as the identities of federal agents working on the investigation, put people at risk in a dangerous part of the world, Young said. Fortunately, Francis was not a violent person, he added.
On Dec. 14, 2012, Beliveau warned Francis to delete his Gmail account: “indictments r coming Did u dump ur gmail?”
Francis replied: “cleaned it.”
Luck would have it, Young said, that investigators had asked Google to preserve the email account right before it was deleted, saving evidence that was crucial to the prosecution.
Beliveau’s role departed from just passing raw information; he also used his tradecraft and experience as an investigator to advise Francis how to react, prosecutors noted.
At one point, the NCIS case reports showed that investigators were on to one of Francis’ other leaks, Cmdr. Michael Misiewicz. Beliveau warned he could be a liability.
“(Misiewicz) didn’t delete anything for several years … he hurt you .. don’t trust him and never email or text him and never speak on the phone with him … Sopranos. Trust me. Only in person and with noise and protect yourself against bugs. He is their leverage against you. Unless you have a life or death hold on him or will pay his retirement, you are vulnerable,” Beliveau wrote Francis.
In another message, Beliveau called a fellow NCIS agent investigating Francis “incompetent” and tried to put Francis at ease: “she better be able to prove it … and she cant. So she wil (sic) look stupid.”
She and other agents did prove it.
Agents scrambled for damage control after learning of their internal leak and had to create a secret investigation walled off from the network. They posted a false memo in the database — planted for Beliveau — saying the case against Francis was closed.
Francis took the bait and felt comfortable enough to travel to the U.S. for what he thought was a business development meeting with Navy officials in San Diego on Sept. 16, 2013. He was arrested instead.
Beliveau was arrested the same day in Virginia, where he was living after having been promoted to director of the Quantico branch, and agents found what remained of Francis’ bribes: $6,200 in cash.
“Mr. Beliveau’s conduct cast a shadow over NCIS, but that’s being kind. He cast more than a shadow,” U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino said at the sentencing.
“It is difficult to quantify the extent of damage and duration of harm on the agency,” the judge said.
NCIS Director Andrew L. Traver, who was sworn into his position three weeks after Beliveau’s arrest, described how Beliveau damaged the trust placed in NCIS around the world.
“John Beliveau’s negative impact on NCIS will last much longer than the memory of his name. Individuals may no longer choose to cooperate with NCIS, victims may choose not to come forward and law enforcement partners may second guess whether or not to share sensitive information with NCIS,” he wrote in a letter to the judge.
Beliveau’s defense lawyer, as well as Beliveau’s doctor, asked the judge to consider the long history of mental illness as a mitigating factor in the case — not as an excuse for the criminal actions but as an explanation. His lawyer had recommended a sentence of 12 months home confinement.
“While it did impact your judgment, nothing about it impacted your ability to differentiate right from wrong,” the judge concluded.
Beliveau apologized to the court, his family and his former colleagues — about 20 of whom, including the NCIS director, sat in three rows in the courtroom Friday — and said his tale was a cautionary one he hoped other law enforcement learned from.
“It is hard to convey the feelings of guilt and remorse, but, upon reflection, I can say that it has made me physically sick when I read about and recall what I did,” he wrote in a letter to the judge. “I also am ashamed for the embarrassment I caused to my former agency and the public trust that was granted to me.”
Since his arrest, he has received counseling and has become a certified recovery specialist to help others struggling with substance abuse.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.