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Ex-Navy officer pleads guilty to vast influence-peddling and bribery scandal

Aug. 31 (UPI) -- A retired Naval warrant officer has admitted to disclosing classified ship schedules and accepting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from a foreign defense contractor as part of a far-reaching, multiyear influence-peddling conspiracy.

Robert Gorsuch, 54, of Virginia Beach, Va., is the first of several members of the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet charged in the scheme to plead guilty and faces up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the charge of bribery of public officials and witnesses.

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Prosecutors have charged nine Seventh Fleet personnel with trading military secrets and influence in exchange for sex parties with prostitutes, extravagant dinners and luxury travel.

In his plea deal, Gorsuch admitted to accepting more than $45,000 in bribes from foreign defense contractor Leonard Francis who also plied the Seventh Fleet administration officer with stays at luxury hotels in the Philippines, Malaysia, Australia and Japan as well as expensive meals, entertainment and other gifts.

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"Gorsuch essentially sold his honor for a few nights at the Shangri-La," Acting U.S. Attorney Rand Grossman said in a statement, referring to one of the hotels he admitted to staying at. "Gorsuch sacrificed his integrity for so little and caused so much harm in the process. Today, Gorsuch has admitted his part in this scandal and will be held to account for his conduct."

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Gorsuch, who served as the Seventh Fleet's flag administrative officer from January 2005 to March 2008, admitted to staying at the luxury hotels on at least five occasions between Feb. 8, 2007, and Jan. 19, 2008.

In return, he gifted Francis disks containing classified ship schedules for the Navy's Seventh Fleet.

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"Mr. Gorsuch's guilty plea unequivocally memorializes his participating in the charged corruption scheme, wherein he and others sacrificed the honor of serving our great nation with distinction in return for personal gain," Kelly P. Mayo, director of the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, said in a statement.

Prosecutors have said the scheme occurred between 2006 and 2014, and saw Francis win contracts and overbill the Navy by more than $35 million.

Thirty-four people have been charged for their part in the conspiracy, 26 of whom have pleaded guilty, admitting to collectively accepting millions of dollars from Francis as well as stays at the luxury hotels and other such gifts.

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The other eight charged members of Seventh Fleet, which is the largest numbered fleet in the U.S. Navy, are to be tried on Nov. 1.

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