Leonard Francis, Center of Navy Bribery Scandal, Changing Plea to Guilty

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The defense contractor known as Fat Leonard who's at the center of a $20 million U.S. Navy overbilling scandal reversed course and now plans to plead guilty, according to federal court documents filed Wednesday.

Leonard Glenn Francis, 51, chief executive of Glenn Defense Marine Asia of Singapore, initially pleaded not guilty in June 2013 to a single charge of conspiring with at least four Navy officials who have pleaded guilty or are under indictment in the plot. Charging documents in U.S. District Court in San Diego allege that Francis bribed Navy officials — including providing them with prostitutes — for secret information that allowed him to overcharge the U.S. government by more than $20 million.

Francis' lawyers filed a one-sentence notice in the San Diego court on Wednesday that Francis intended to change his plea at a hearing Thursday before Magistrate Judge Jan M. Adler. The notice offered no explanation for Francis' change of heart, which comes one week after Navy Cmdr. Jose Luis Sanchez pleaded guilty to having given Francis classified shipping schedules in exchange for bribes. It also comes exactly three months after his San Diego attorney withdrew from the case and Francis hired a high-powered Washington, D.C., law firm.