Ex-NCIS agent gets 12 years in prison in 'Fat Leonard' Navy fraud scheme

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.

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.


Twitter: @kristinadavis

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