The U.S. Navy is getting a lot of media visibility this year: Top Gun: Maverick is outperforming at theaters everywhere, and recruiting-age men and women are standing in line to watch a glamorous preview of life at sea. That positive exposure will be more than welcome, but the next Navy-focused screen production may be less so. A group of journalists have teamed up with a film producer to make the notorious “Fat Leonard” corruption scandal into a TV series.
The two-man investigative reporting team – authors and journalists Tom Wright and Bradley Hope – can draw on their direct access to the man at the center of the Navy’s most salacious scandal in decades, Leonard “Fat Leonard” Glenn Francis. In the late 2000s, Francis bribed a substantial share of 7th Fleet’s logistics and operations team in order to win business for his ship-husbanding company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA).
Multiple Navy officers who participated in the scheme have admitted to accepting bribes and inducements like hotel stays, lavish dinners, luxury goods and the services of prostitutes arranged by Francis. In exchange, they would provide Francis with sensitive information on ship movements and help divert Navy ships to ports where his company operated. To date, the GDMA investigation has led to criminal charges against nearly three dozen U.S. Navy officials and defense contractors. So far, 29 have pleaded guilty, including five officers with the rank of captain and one rear admiral.
In all, prosecutors say that GDMA overbilled the Navy by $36 million with the help of corrupt servicemembers and civilian employees. For perspective, the lost funds would have been enough money to operate an F-35C fighter for nearly four years.
Much of this is in the public record thanks to ongoing criminal cases, but Wright and Hope convinced Francis to go into much more depth for a podcast series. The program detailed previously un-aired allegations, and it will now serve as the basis for a theatrical adaptation of the “Fat Leonard” story for TV release. American film production company SK Global is backing the venture, and the screenwriter will be Peter Chiarelli, best known for his work on the script for Crazy Rich Asians.