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The next day, the Blue Ridge docked in Hong Kong for a 72-hour visit.
Newland and other officers dined and drank at Francis's expense at a swanky French restaurant, racking up a ,000 tab; then they spent the night at the Shangri-La Hotel, where Francis covered much of the cost, the indictment states.
In February 2006, as the Blue Ridge prepared to visit Hong Kong, a military lawyer sent an ethics alert to senior officers on the ship: Beware defense contractors who might try to bribe you. David Newland, the 7th Fleet chief of staff, immediately leaked the message to Francis so that Francis could cover his tracks, according to an indictment filed last year in federal court in San Diego.
Francis, 53, has pleaded guilty to bribery and defrauding the military of million, although some officials think the monetary losses sustained by the Navy are far greater.Although Francis offered bribes and freebies to hundreds of Navy personnel assigned to other U. warships, bases and embassies in Asia starting in the early 1990s, the Blue Ridge was his primary target.Staff officers on the Blue Ridge had the clout to intervene on behalf of Francis's company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia, because they managed operations, logistics and intelligence for the entire 7th Fleet. A master recruiter, Francis methodically assembled a network of informants to feed him the secret itineraries, court documents show.The ship itself is skippered by a captain with a separate crew.It spends about half the year docked at its home port in Yokosuka, Japan, and the rest making the rounds in Asia.As the flagship for the Navy's 7th Fleet, the USS Blue Ridge plays a critical role in national security by overseeing all U. maritime operations in Asia and the western Pacific.The venerable warship is the Navy's second-oldest active-duty vessel and has survived the Vietnam War, the Cold War and tensions with China and North Korea.Steve Barney, a retired Navy captain who wrote the 2006 ethics alert when he was serving as the 7th Fleet's top lawyer, said he was shocked by the allegations of his former shipmates flagrantly disregarding the rules."There was a continuous drumbeat on ethics," he said."Anybody who was on the staff, if they took the time to read it, would have been on notice about what the ethics rules were."Three weeks after Barney posted his ethics warning, the flagship arrived in Singapore for another port visit - and another party.The Navy, like other federal agencies, has strict rules against accepting anything of monetary value from people seeking to do business with the government.Gifts are prohibited unless they are worth or less.