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Officers censured for bringing 'embarrassment' on Navy in 'Fat Leonard' scandal

Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer testifies at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Sept. 19, 2017. Behind him are Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John M. Richardson and John H. Pendleton, the Government Accountability Office's director of defense force structure and readiness issues.

JOE GROMELSKI/STARS AND STRIPES

By COREY DICKSTEIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 20, 2018

WASHINGTON — Navy Secretary Richard Spencer has issued letters of censure to a retired rear admiral and two other officers found to have accepted inappropriate gifts and maintained unethical relationships with “Fat” Leonard Francis, the central figure in a widespread fraud investigation.

The censures – formal, permanent acknowledgements of wrongdoing – were issued last week to retired Rear Adm. Richard Wren, retired Capt. Timothy Conroy and Capt. Charles Johnson, the Navy announced Wednesday in a statement. The letters do not impact retirement benefits or pay for the officers reprimanded.

The censures are the latest in a series of punishments doled out by the Navy and the Department of Justice stemming from an ongoing probe of Francis and the defense contractor Glenn Defense Marine Asia, or GDMA, for whom he worked. Francis has pleaded guilty to bribery, conspiracy to defraud the United States and other charges. He is awaiting sentencing.

According to the Navy, Wren “repeatedly and improperly” took gifts from Francis while serving as the commander of Carrier Strike Group Five and as the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Japan between 2007 and 2010. In Spencer’s letter, the secretary wrote he determined Wren later mislead investigators about his relationship with Francis. Wren retired from the Navy in 2011.

Conroy, who retired from the Navy in 2010, also accepted gifts from Francis during several months in 2008 when he was serving as the chief of staff for Carrier Strike Group Seven, Spencer determined, according to the Navy statement.

Johnson, who remains on active duty, was found to have accepted gifts from Francis’ firm repeatedly between 2004 and 2010 while serving in various positions in the western Pacific, the Navy said.

Spencer wrote all three officers engaged in “conduct unbecoming an officer,” which was “an embarrassment” to the service.

"It is incumbent that naval officers, particularly those placed in positions of great trust and responsibility, be held to the highest standards of both personal and professional behavior,” Spencer wrote. Wren, Conroy and Johnson “disregarded those standards and engaged in conduct that reflected unethical and improper personal behavior and set poor standards of leadership.”

The 350-pound Francis bribed Navy officials in the Pacific with hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, luxurious gifts and prostitutes, investigators said. Francis is believed to have defrauded the U.S. government out of about $35 million. Since Francis’ 2013 arrest, hundreds of Navy officials have been impacted by the scandal, which has led to charges against more than 30 individuals. At least 20 Navy officials have pleaded guilty to a range of charges, including fraud and dereliction of duty related to the case.

dickstein.corey@stripes.com
Twitter: @CDicksteinDC

Rear Adm. Richard Wren is awarded the Distinguished Service Medal from Vice Adm. Scott Van Buskirk during a change of command ceremony in Japan on April 29, 2011. Wren was relieved as commander, U.S. Naval Forces Japan/ Navy Region Japan.
BROCK TAYLOR/U.S. NAVY

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