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Singapore manager pleads guilty in Navy fraud scheme

A former manager for a defense contractor who admitted overbilling the U.S. Navy more than $20 million became the second person to plead guilty as the government continues probing alleged bribery involving the Singapore-based company and naval officers.

Alex Wisidagama, 40, entered his plea Tuesday in federal court in San Diego. He is a cousin of Leonard Glenn Francis, the chief executive officer of Glenn Defense Marine (Asia), who’s charged with providing gifts and prostitutes to two U.S. naval commanders as part of the scheme.

Francis, a Malaysian citizen, and Wisidagama were arrested in September in San Diego. Francis, nicknamed “Fat Leonard,” is accused of paying the two commanders to steer U.S. Navy vessels to ports that were most lucrative for his company. A Navy criminal investigator who Francis allegedly bribed for information about a probe of Glenn Defense Marine pleaded guilty in December.

“Wisidagama and others were creative, deceitful and audacious in their efforts to manipulate the Navy and steal millions of dollars from U.S. taxpayers,” U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said in a statement. “This plea is an important development in our ongoing case, and we will continue to pursue all avenues.”

Glenn Defense Marine has worked with the U.S. Navy for 25 years, providing hundreds of millions of dollars in goods and services for American ships in at least a dozen countries in Asia, according to court filings. Among three regional contracts the company was awarded in 2011 was one worth as much as $125 million over five years to provide tugboats, fuel, trash removal and other services for the Navy in Southeast Asia.

Wisidagama, who faces as long as 10 years in prison, was accused of providing bogus invoices and phony competitive bids to inflate the costs for the services the company provided. He’s scheduled to be sentenced June 13.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery said he leaked the names of cooperating witnesses and plans for future investigative steps to Francis in return for cash and prostitutes.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Huie said after Tuesday’s hearing that more indictments are possible.

Wisidagama’s lawyer, Knut Johnson, said his client agreed to plead guilty to put the matter behind him.

Huie and Johnson both declined to say whether Wisidagama is cooperating with the government.

The case is U.S. v. Wisidagama, 13-4043, U.S. District Court, Southern District of California (San Diego).

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