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Judge overturns felony convictions of five retired military officers involved in US Navy bribery case

Leonard Francis (Via U.S. Marshals Service)

A federal judge has dismissed the felony convictions of five retired military officers who admitted to taking bribes from a Malaysian contractor known as “Fat Leonard” in a major corruption case involving the Navy.

The government, not the defense, requested the dismissals, citing mistakes in how the case was prosecuted.

Retired U.S. Navy officers Donald Hornbeck, Robert Gorsuch, and Jose Luis Sanchez, along with U.S. Marine Corps Col. Enrico DeGuzman, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge on Tuesday. U.S. Navy officer Stephen Shedd’s entire case was thrown out. Their defense lawyers were not immediately available for comment.

A migrant from Columbia walks along the wire (Via Steve Jacks/Shutterstock)

This development is the latest setback for the government’s efforts to prosecute numerous military officials linked to Leonard Francis, the owner of Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd. Francis, also known as “Fat Leonard,” offered cash bribes, gifts, and extravagant parties in Southeast Asia to Navy officials and others, leading to charges of fraud and conspiracy. He awaits sentencing after being caught in a sting operation in 2013.

Prosecutors acknowledged errors in their handling of the case, stating their goal is to ensure fairness despite believing the defendants committed the crimes they were charged with.

In 2022, a judge criticized the lead federal prosecutor for misconduct, and earlier this year, convictions against four former Navy officers were also overturned.

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