Admitting his guilt before a federal court on Wednesday, former US Navy 7th Fleet Operations Officer Capt. Donald Gayle “Bubbles” Hornbeck pleaded guilty to bribery. He was said to have taken $68,000 in bribes comprised of, including prostitution, luxury vacations with accommodations provided for, expensive meals, from Malaysian national and President of Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA) Leonard Glenn Francis, also known as “Fat Leonard.”
GMDA is a subsidiary of the Glenn Marine Group, a shipping support defense contractor. They provide supplies goods, naval logistics, and operation of shore-based support for ships coming in foreign ports. Fat Leonard, who was the CEO of the company, admittedly bribed numerous high-ranking uniformed officers of the United States Seventh Fleet with millions of dollars to gain confidential contracting information about the US ships and submarines. This would help him re-direct US Navy ships to ports he controlled in Southeast Asia so he could supply them overpriced food, water, barges, tugboats, and other services. This scam would cost the US Navy over $35 million, further enriching Fat Leonard.
Hornbeck agreed to a plea agreement with the US Federal Court in San Diego, California. In line with the plea agreement, he admitted to handing over classified documents containing the ship movements of US Navy aircraft carriers and submarines to Fat Leonard. He also admitted recruiting more US Navy officers to manage a network of corrupted officials that would send US Navy ships to Francis-controlled ports. Hornbeck wasn’t just helping Fat Leonard with the recruitment of other officers into the scam. He was the main man for almost all recruitments within the 7th Fleet. As a result of all the years of recruitment, he was known to be part of the “GDMA Nine.” This group was composed of US Navy officials, all of which at some point, worked for the 7th Fleet working as informants for a foreign defense contractor.
He and Fat Leonard allegedly started this corrupt relationship in August 2005, almost 17 years ago. The former officer was working as the assistant chief of staff aboard the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) at that time. He would then be promoted to 7th Fleet’s Deputy Chief of Staff For Operations, a critical position for Fat Leonard’s maneuvering of US Navy ships to ports as this job oversaw and directed the operations of the US Navy’s vessels in the Southeast Asian region.
To give context, in 2006, Leonard had asked Hornbeck to send missile destroyer vessel Lassen to Laem Chabang. Hornbeck would then agree, sending the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) along with it as a bonus. In 2007, they would be gifted by Leonard an extravagant dinner at The Oak Door steakhouse in Tokyo, where they feasted on lobster thermidor, Liberté Sauvage, foie gras, washing it all down with expensive alcohol and cigars.
Fat Leonard had thrown for Hornbeck in 2008 a series of parties in luxury hotels in Bangkok and Manila. It was reported that the party in Manila had cost $50,000 as he stayed in the Presidential Suite of the Makati Shangri-La Hotel, where he had a party with multiple prostitutes and free-flowing Dom Perignon. In return, he directed ships toward Leonard-controlled ports, one of which was in 2010, where Hornbeck gave info to Fat Leonard about the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) visit to Port Klang in Malaysia. In 2011, Hornbeck had asked Francis for a job in his company.
He also agreed to pay the US Navy $67,830 in restitution and faces up to 15 years in prison with a $250,000 fine. The former officer is set to be sentenced on September 8, 2022, by US District Judge Jains Sammartino.
As of writing, Hornbeck is now part of 34 US Navy officials and defense contractors accused of bribery and fraud. 29 of the 34 officials have pleaded guilty to the charges in the Fat Leonard scandal. It was confirmed by Fat Leonard himself that the US Navy would run out of officers if ever the US government had found out the extent of the scandal within the US Navy ranks. The investigation is on going.