Monday, October 04, 2021

Fat Leonard II: Electric Boogaloo?

Two of the greatest self-inflicted institutional failures of the USN in the last half-century were Tailhook 91 and Fat Leonard. They decimated a generation of leaders and the hard-won service reputation with the American people and their elected representatives that we are still trying to climb out of.

While Tailhook 91’s failure was mostly in the response of senior uniformed and civilian leadership to the political pressure by feeding their young to Vaal hoping to save their own skins, Fat Leonard exposed a greater, more dangerous rot that tied in all the worst features of human nature; greed, lust, envy, and addiction. 

As much of Fat Leonard was avoidable if there were simply sufficiently ethical administrative oversight, one would think that after the still ongoing legal bloodbath, our Navy would take a fine-tooth comb to our husbanding partners and their relationships with the Navy. More importantly, a culture shift in oversight and accountability would be in place such that by 2021, we wouldn’t find ourselves here.

As reported by Craig Whitlock at WaPo yesterday; 

Federal agents are investigating a new U.S. Navy corruption case that has strong echoes of the Fat Leonard scandal, with a defense contractor facing accusations that he delivered cash bribes and bilked the Navy out of at least $50 million to service its ships in foreign ports, according to recently unsealed court records.


According to an arrest warrant unsealed last week in U.S. District Court in Washington, Rafaraci and MLS defrauded the Navy of at least $50 million by inflating invoices for port services between 2011 and 2018.

In one instance, when the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson visited Manama, capital of the Persian Gulf kingdom of Bahrain, in January 2015, MLS billed the Navy for more than $231,000 in “port authority fees,” even though the Manama port authority charged only $12,686, the court documents show.

Here we go, again. Chump change corruption with institutional level damage.

Federal authorities are also seeking Rafaraci’s extradition on suspicion of money laundering and bribery. The arrest warrant alleges that he met with an unnamed U.S. Navy official at the Diplomat Hotel in Manama in August 2015, handed over an envelope stuffed with $20,000 in cash and told the official to “keep up the good work.”

Let us hope this is small an isolated occurrence and – trying to be optimistic here – we did have systems in place to hunt these issues down and … it worked?

Hillson said agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) uncovered the alleged wrongdoing and “have been actively coordinating with other law-enforcement authorities around the globe.”

As this story work its way out, a few things:

1. No mercy to the guilty. There are too many hard working people doing exceptional things unseen and unknown to allows a miniscule few to enrich themselves on their back – and when caught – bring shame on to the good people and their Navy.

2. Justice delayed is no justice at all. As important as giving the accused the right to a fair trial, also there is the importance of seeing justice served in a timely manner. Hopefully the legal process will not be as drawn-out as Fat Leonard.

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