A retired Navy officer has been sentenced to 30 months in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $150,000 for his role in the far-reaching “Fat Leonard” scandal.
Capt. Jesus Vasquez Cantu has become the latest official to be sentenced on bribery charges in the wake of the investigation of Malaysian businessman Leonard Glenn Francis, better known as “Fat Leonard,” and his ship husbanding company Glenn Defense Marine Asia.
Cantu’s case has gone on for years, and the 64-year-old accepted a plea deal in exchange for a guilty plea in 2017. Prosecutors said that his involvement in the affair began in 2007 when Cantu was the assistant chief of staff for logistics for 7th Fleet aboard the command ship USS Blue Ridge.
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At the time, Cantu was still a fairly junior officer, but he took after Navy Capts. James Dolan, David Lausman, David Newland and others who would go on to be convicted of accepting bribes from Francis.
“Cantu and other members of the conspiracy accepted more than $135,000 in meals, entertainment, travel and hotel expenses, and the services of prostitutes from Francis; in exchange, they worked together to help Francis as issues important to his business arose,” prosecutors said in a statement in 2017.
According to court documents, Cantu eventually returned to the Pacific in 2012 as a more senior officer and eager to renew the relationship with Francis and “to fill the void that … Newland had left.”
He “wanted to be that guy now,” prosecutors said, citing Cantu’s court testimony in a sentencing memo filed two weeks ago. “Cantu testified that in 2012, he ‘wanted to be the individual who would determine what my price would be.'”
In his own sentencing memo, the former naval officer confessed “that he failed his family, his country and himself.”
The memo goes on to say that his wife, Cassy Cantu, “has graced Jesus with her constant, continued love and forgiveness” even as he confessed “that he hurt his wife horribly … [and] that his actions have deeply damaged his relationship with his daughters.”
U.S. District Court Judge Janis Sammartino ordered Cantu to enter prison on May 15. He was ordered to pay $100,000 in restitution, fined another $75,000, and will be under supervised release for three years after his prison sentence has been served.
Meanwhile, Francis, the man at the heart of the scheme, was arrested in San Diego in 2013 and pleaded guilty in 2015 to offering $500,000 in bribes and defrauding at least $35 million from the Navy. He fled his house arrest last year ahead of his own sentencing and has been in Venezuelan custody since late September.
— Konstantin Toropin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.
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