For one high-ranking Navy official, the sun is setting on a years-long probe into the “Fat Leonard” bribery scandal that rocked the Navy, ended several careers, resulted in several security clearances being revoked, and saw criminal charges brought against 40 people.
The Navy announced in September that it has closed its review of Vice Adm. Ted “Twig” Branch, according to The San Diego Tribune.
“The Department of Justice declined to prosecute Vice Adm. Ted Branch and forwarded his matter to the Department of the Navy’s Consolidated Disposition Authority,” said Navy Fleet Forces Command spokesman Cmdr. Mike Kafka in a written statement. “After completing a thorough and detailed review of the evidence, the CDA took appropriate administrative action. This matter is closed.”
Administrative action can range from a nonpunitive letter of reprimand to an oral counseling for questionable conduct, according to Stars and Stripes. It does not involve taking pay and privileges from a shipmate.
When investigators set their sights on Branch in 2013, high ranking Navy officials “felt that they couldn’t fire Branch from his intelligence post,” but they couldn’t allow him to have access to classified information, according to the Tribune. They left him in his job, but he wasn’t cleared to hear or analyze intelligence data.
Two years into the investigation, Branch said the following to Military.com about his security clearance being revoked:
“The shortest version of the story is, it’s frustrating in the extreme. Probably the most important point is, I am not a danger to national security, nor have I ever been, nor will I ever be, and the idea that I would be is insulting.”
Branch served as the deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare and was the director of naval intelligence. He retired in October 2016 and directs a program at the San Diego-based nonprofit group CyberTECH that is designed to spark technological innovation.
We’ve written about the biggest corruption case in Navy history several times because it is a textbook example of how security clearances can be abused. Petty Officer Daniel Layug pleaded guilty in 2014 to using his security clearance to provide classified information to Leonard Francis, owner and CEO of Glenn Defense Marine Asia. In exchange, he received $10,000 in cash, travel and a “bucket list” of video games and gadgets from Francis, according to the NBC affiliate in San Diego.
Federal prosecutors began investigating Francis after suspecting he had overcharged the Navy for more than $20 million in services. Prosecutors said as many as 200 people were involved in the probe, and charges were brought against sailors – including Navy Lt. Cmdr. Gentry DeBord, retired Capt. Michael George Brooks, and retired Cmdr. Bobby R. Pitts – as well as Department of Defense civilians and associates of Francis.