Retired Navy captain sentenced to prison for taking 'Fat Leonard' bribes valued at $91K
Published in News & Features
SAN DIEGO — By the time David Williams Haas was 10 years old, he'd decided to join the Navy thanks to the mentorship of a family friend, who he knew simply as "Uncle Arleigh."
It was not until Haas' time at the Naval Academy that he came to fully understand the accomplishments of Adm. Arleigh Burke, a World War II veteran who served the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations as chief of naval operations and was just the fourth American to have a naval vessel named after him while still alive.
For more than two decades, Haas charted an upward career path similar to that of his mentor, facing combat in Iraq and Afghanistan as he ascended the Navy's ranks, at one point coordinating the operations of some 100 ships and submarines, 200 aircraft and 40,000 sailors and Marines.
But his illustrious career came crashing down soon after the arrest of defense contractor Leonard Glenn Francis, better known as "Fat Leonard," who Haas would later admit bribed him with hotel stays, parties, dinners and the services of prostitutes in exchange for routing ships to Asian ports controlled by Francis.
U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino on Thursday sentenced Haas, who pleaded guilty in 2020 to a bribery conspiracy charge, to two years and six months in federal prison.
"You of all people should have known your relationship with Mr. Francis was wrong," Sammartino told Haas, who retired as a captain. "Bottom line, you betrayed and hurt the Navy (and) your fellow officers."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Valerie Chu said "Francis saw Haas as one of the most powerful weapons he had," thanks to his lofty position in the Navy's 7th Fleet in the Pacific. It was a "position of extraordinary power, influence and value to Mr. Francis," Chu said.
Addressing the judge, Haas, 54, said he brought shame on his family and the Navy and tarnished his long, decorated career.
"I should never have had a relationship with that guy," Haas said. "I should never have allowed Leonard Francis into anywhere."
Haas was a captain on the Blue Ridge, the 7th Fleet command ship from which Francis heavily recruited allies. As part of his plea agreement, Haas admitted to accepting bribes valued at nearly $91,000, including a multiday party in Indonesia called "Cinderella Liberty" that included dinner, nightclub entertainment and the services of prostitutes. Another two-day party in Tokyo reportedly cost $75,000.
In return, Haas used his influence to benefit Glenn Defense Marine Asia, Francis' ship-support company that provided everything from water and trash removal to security and tugboat services.
At one point during the relationship from 2011 to 2013, Haas guided the aircraft carrier John C. Stennis to Malaysia to dock at one of Francis' ports, according to the plea agreement. Francis billed the Navy $2.7 million for the stopover.
Prosecutors said Haas also stood up for Francis when his actions started to come under scrutiny and "advised Francis on how to respond" to allegations that his company was fraudulently over-billing the Navy, according to a sentencing document.
Defense attorney Jeremiah Sullivan emphasized Thursday in court that his client "never passed classified information" to Francis. But Chu, the prosecutor, said Haas' second-in-command, Michael Misiewicz, passed "reams of information" to Francis.
Haas and Misiewicz are among dozens of naval officers who have pleaded guilty or been convicted of bribery and other crimes in connection with Francis' $35 million fraud scheme, which Sammartino described Thursday as "the most egregious event" in naval history.
Francis, who also pleaded guilty in the case, fled home confinement last year and is now jailed in Venezuela. A report Wednesday from Project Brazen journalist Tom Wright, who recorded a podcast with Francis while he was under house arrest in San Diego, suggested Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro is attempting to swap Francis for Alex Saab, a Maduro ally facing money laundering charges in Florida.
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