Friday, February 17, 2017

CRIMINALS AND CROOKS IN THE ARMED FORCES: Navy Commander, Mario Herrera, 48, of Helotes, Texas took expensive travel and meals and the services of prostitutes from Leonard Glenn Francis in exchange for classified U.S. Navy information.

Navy commander arrested in massive bribes-for-secrets case
By Richard L. Cassin | Friday, February 17, 2017 at 8:08AM

A serving U.S. Navy Commander became the seventeenth individual charged in the Navy's worst corruption scandal in modern times.

Mario Herrera, 48, of Helotes, Texas was charged in a complaint unsealed Thursday.

He allegedly took expensive travel and meals and the services of prostitutes from Leonard Glenn Francis in exchange for classified U.S. Navy information.

Francis -- also known as Fat Leonard -- is the former CEO of Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), a defense contractor based in Singapore. The Malaysian national, 51, pleaded guilty to bribing scores of U.S. Navy officials with travel, meals, cash, electronics, parties, and prostitutes. He's waiting to be sentenced.

His company provided port services to U.S. Navy ships in Asia. As part of his plea agreement, Francis admitted over-billing the Navy more than $35 million on contracts to stock and clean ships.

Herrera was arrested in San Antonio, Texas Thursday morning and charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery. He's expected to appear in federal court in San Diego, where the Fat Leonard cases are being heard.

According to the complaint, Herrera helped steer U.S. Navy contracts to Francis and GDMA. He gave Francis internal, proprietary U.S. Navy information and intervened on GDMA’s behalf in contract disputes, the DOJ said.

"Herrera directed ships to take alternative routes that benefited GDMA on two separate occasions, costing the U.S. Navy $3.6 million," according to the DOJ.

Of the 17 individuals charged in the case, 13 have pleaded guilty.

Eleven defendants are current or former Navy officers. They include an admiral, two captains, four commanders, two lieutenant commanders, a former NCIS special agent, and a petty officer.

In addition to Fat Leonard, four other executives from his company have been charged -- Alex Wisidagama, Ed Aruffo, Neil Peterson, and Linda Raja.

Wisidagama pleaded guilty and was sentenced in March to 63 months in prison and $34.8 million in restitution to the Navy. Aruffo has pleaded guilty and is waiting to be sentenced. Peterson and Raja were extradited from Singapore to the United States. Their cases are pending.

Other current or former U.S. Navy officials charged in the case include:
  • Admiral Robert Gilbeau (pleaded guilty)
  • Lt. Commander Gentry Debord (sentenced to 30 months in prison)
  • Commander Bobby Pitts (awaiting trial)
  • Captain Michael Brooks (pleaded guilty)
  • Captain Daniel Dusek (sentenced to 46 months in prison)
  • Commander Michael Misiewicz (sentenced to 78 months in prison)
  • Lt. Commander Todd Malaki (sentenced to 40 months in prison)
  • Commander Jose Luis Sanchez (pleaded guilty)
  • Former NCIS Supervisory Special Agent John Beliveau II (sentenced to 144 months in prison)
  • Petty Officer First Class Daniel Layug (sentenced to 27 in prison), and
  • Paul Simpkins, a former DoD civilian employee who oversaw Navy contracting in Singapore (sentenced to 72 months in prison).

Three other Rear Admirals including the commander of naval forces in Japan retired in 2015 after the Secretary of the Navy censured them for the Fat Leonard scandal. - See more at:


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Navy Commander Charged as Part of Corrupt “Brotherhood” that Accepted Luxury Travel and Prostitutes from Foreign Defense Contractor

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark W. Pletcher (619) 546-9714 and Patrick Hovakimian (619) 546-9718

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY February 16, 2017

SAN DIEGO – U.S. Navy Commander Mario Herrera was charged in a complaint unsealed today with accepting prostitutes, luxury travel, elaborate dinners and $1,800 steaks from foreign defense contractor Leonard Glenn Francis in exchange for classified and internal U.S. Navy information.

Herrera, the 12th U.S. Navy official to be charged so far, was arrested in San Antonio, Texas this morning and is scheduled to make his initial appearance in federal court in the Western District of Texas. The United States will seek removal of Herrera to San Diego to face charges.

According to the complaint, Herrera received bribes in return for sending U.S. Navy ship schedules and other proprietary information to Francis, sometimes through U.S. Navy Commander Jose Luis Sanchez, who was among the first officers charged in the massive bribery and fraud case in 2013. Sanchez pleaded guilty to bribery charges in January 2015 and awaits sentencing.

Hererra, Sanchez and other U.S. Navy 7th Fleet officers who were committed to doing the bidding of Francis in exchange for prostitutes and other perks called themselves the “Band of Brothers” and the “Wolf Pack,” the complaint said. In one email, Sanchez asked Francis to send pictures of prostitutes, saying “the brothers are ready to indulge.” A few days later in another email, Sanchez thanked Francis for the prostitutes and hotel accommodations during a port stop in Manila, Philippines: “A warm thank you from the brotherhood…we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and had a great time.”

The complaint also alleges that Herrera made recommendations within the Navy to benefit Francis’ company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia, including on several occasions manipulating the movement of U.S. Navy ships and diverting them to ports financially lucrative to Francis. GDMA is a multinational corporation and longtime government contractor based in Singapore, which provides hundreds of millions of dollars of “husbanding” services for the U.S. Navy in at least a dozen countries throughout the Pacific. Husbanding involves supplying food, water, fuel, tugboats and fenders, security, transportation, trash and liquid waste removal, and other goods and services to ships and submarines in foreign ports.

So far, a total of 17 named individual defendants have been charged in connection with the GDMA corruption and fraud investigation. Of those, 12 are current or former U.S. Navy officials, including Herrera, Sanchez, Admiral Robert Gilbeau, believed to be the first active-duty U.S. Navy flag officer charged in a federal criminal case; Captain (ret.) Michael Brooks; Captain Daniel Dusek; Commander Michael Misiewicz; Commander Bobby Pitts; Lt. Commander Gentry Debord; Lt. Commander Todd Malaki; Petty Officer First Class Daniel Layug; Naval Criminal Investigative Service Supervisory Special Agent John Beliveau; and Paul Simpkins, a former DoD civilian employee, who oversaw contracting in Singapore.

Gilbeau, Brooks, Dusek, Misiewicz, Sanchez, Debord, Malaki, Layug, Beliveau, and Simpkins have pleaded guilty. On Jan. 21, 2016, Layug was sentenced to 27 months in prison and a $15,000 fine; on Jan. 29, 2016, Malaki was sentenced to 40 months in prison and to pay $15,000 in restitution to the Navy and a $15,000 fine. On March 25, 2016, Dusek was sentenced to 46 months in prison and to pay $30,000 in restitution to the Navy and a $70,000 fine; and on April 29, 2016, Misiewicz was sentenced to 78 months in prison and to pay a fine of $100,000 and to pay $95,000 in restitution to the Navy. Beliveau was sentenced on October 14, 2016 to 12 years in prison and to pay $20 million in restitution; Simpkins was sentenced on December 2, 2016 to 72 months in prison; Gilbeau, Brooks, and Sanchez await sentencing.

Pitts was charged in May 2016 and his case is pending.

Also charged are five GDMA executives – Francis, Alex Wisidagama, Ed Aruffo, Neil Peterson and Linda Raja. Three have pleaded guilty; Wisidagama was sentenced on March 18, 2016 to 63 months and $34.8 million in restitution to the Navy. Francis and Aruffo await sentencing; Peterson and Raja were extradited from Singapore in September 2016 and their cases are pending.

The Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and the Defense Contract Audit Agency are investigating. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark W. Pletcher and Patrick Hovakimian of the Southern District of California and Assistant Chief Brian R. Young of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.

Anyone with information relating to fraud or corruption should contact the NCIS anonymous tip line at or the DOD Hotline at, or call (800) 424-9098.

DEFENDANT Case Number: 17mj0424
Lieutenant Commander Mario Herrera Age 48 Helotes, Texas


Conspiracy to Commit Bribery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371
Maximum Penalty: 5 years in prison, a $250,000 fine,


Defense Criminal Investigative Service
Naval Criminal Investigative Service
Defense Contract Audit Agency

One oil worker with Trinity Operating LLC injured following oil well explosion in Pittsburg County

Updated: February 16, 2017 6:24 PM CDT

Kevin Enloe, director of McAlester/Pittsburg County Emergency Management, left, stands near the scene of an oil field explosion Thursday near Quinton in Pittsburg County. [Kevin Harvison, The McAlester News-Capital via AP]

QUINTON, PITTSBURG COUNTY, OK — At least one person was hurt Thursday in a natural gas well explosion in eastern Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol says the explosion happened near Quinton in Pittsburg County, about 100 miles southeast of Tulsa. Troopers were called out to assist the county sheriff's office about 12:30 p.m.

The well owner, Houston-based Trinity Operating LLC, said one injured employee was taken to a Tulsa hospital. The condition of the injured person was not immediately available.

Trinity said an investigation was underway to determine what sparked the fire.

"We followed established safety protocols and the fire was extinguished," Trinity said in a statement. "Nothing is more important than the safety of our employees and the safe operation of our facilities."

The Pittsburg County Emergency Management Office told Tulsa television station KTUL that multiple volunteer fire departments converged on the site. The station reported that emergency management crews and the county sheriff's office also were on the scene.

The incident briefly closed a nearby state highway. 



The fire is out now but gas is still leaking from one spot, so the oil company is working now to get that under control.

Pittsburg County emergency manager Kevin Enloe says a gas well exploded when a worker went to open a valve just after noon Thursday.

Enloe said the victim stopped, dropped and rolled before another worker ran over with an extinguisher.

That worker was able to stop the victim from burning and moved him to a safe spot away from the fire.

"I think he played a huge role as far as his actions to protect his coworker and to extinguish the fire. The burns could have certainly been a lot worse had he not been there to help his coworker," Enloe said.

After the victim was moved, there were still wells on fire, shooting flames as high as 10 feet at times.

Multiple fire agencies worked together with the Trinity, the oil company, to come up with a plan on the best way to attack the fire and ended up putting it out a few hours after the explosion.

No one else was injured, and an exact cause is under investigation. Officials said the well that exploded had been worked on Tuesday. Maintenance workers arrived after 5 p.m. Thursday and appeared to be working on the wells.

Enloe said the fire burned the victim from the waist down, with the most severe burns below his knees.

He was flown to a Tulsa hospital and is expected to survive.

The Pittsburg County community is a small one, so many of the emergency responders know the victim."He's a good guy," Enloe said. "He's a family man. He actually used to work with the Pittsburg County Sheriff's Office, so he's an upstanding citizen.

Construction worker was crushed to death when a pallet of bricks fell on him in Greer, SC after a pulley failure


A 64-year-old man has died two weeks after he was injured while he working on a residential construction project, the coroner said.

Coroner Parks Evans said Leonico Quijada, of Spartanburg, was working February 1 on the construction of a home on Hudson Road in Greer.

Evans said workers were using a pulley system to raise and lower pallets of bricks to workers on scaffolding. When Quijada pulled on a rope to raise a pallet of bricks up to a coworker, the pulley came loose and dropped down, hitting Quijada in the head.

Quijada was taken to Greenville Memorial Hospital where he died Tuesday, Evans said.

Chicago Water Department employee Tucharski, 41, was crushed to death by a 20-foot deep trench collapse as he was replacing a sewer line in the 6000 block of North Sauganash Avenue

Visitation will be held Friday for Konrad Tucharski, 41, who was killed Monday while working on an underground sewer line in Sauganash.  GoFundMe / Funeral Services Konrad Turcharski

CHICAGO — A fundraising page has gathered close to $21,000 for the family of Konrad Tucharski, a city worker who died Monday after a sewer trench collapsed around him in Sauganash.

Water Department employee Tucharski, 41, was replacing a sewer line in the 6000 block of North Sauganash Avenue early Monday afternoon when the 20-foot hole caved in, officials said.

He later was pronounced dead at St. Francis Hospital in Evanston.

The cause of the incident remains under investigation, officials said.

The GoFundMe page, which saw some 270 individual donors in less than two days, described Tucharsky as "an awesome guy, down to earth and always energetic."

Tucharski's visitation is from 3 to 9 p.m. Friday at Matz Funeral Home, 410 E. Rand Road in suburban Mount Prospect. A funeral Mass will be offered at 2 p.m. Saturday at St. Thomas of Villanova Church in Palatine.

Tucharski is survived by his mother, wife and two daughters. 


City Worker Killed In Sauganash Trench Collapse

By Alex Nitkin | February 13, 2017 4:33pm | Updated on February 13, 2017 5:29pm

A trench collapsed on a water department worker who was helping replace an underground pipe near Peterson Avenue and Keeler Avenue, killing him, officials said. DNAinfo/Alex Nitkin

SAUGANASH, CHICAGO, IL — A city water department worker died Monday afternoon after an underground trench collapsed around him during a routine project, officials said.

Around 1:15 p.m., the man was working underground near the intersection of Peterson Avenue and Sauganash Avenue when "the hole collapsed on him," according to Cmdr. Curtis Hudson, a Chicago Fire Department spokesman.

He was brought to St. Francis Hospital in Evanston, where he was pronounced dead, Hudson said.

The man, identified as 41-year-old Konrad Tucharski, had been working on a "planned construction project" to replace a sewer pipe, according to Gary Litherland, a spokesman for the water department.

"We send our prayers and sympathies to the family and friends of the deceased employee," Litherland said.

The cause of the mishap remains under investigation, he added.

Crews had been working on the project in the 6000 block of North Sauganash Avenue for at least two weeks, according to John Rus, who lives on the block.

"They were out here day and night, in the freezing cold and everything," Rus said. "I even brought them donuts one morning. This is unbelievable."

Con Edison has agreed to pay $153 million to settle charges over a 2014 gas explosion in East Harlem that killed eight people and injured about 50.


Firefighters remove debris from the smoking site of an explosion in East Harlem on March 13, 2014. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Con Edison has agreed to pay $153 million to settle charges over a 2014 gas explosion in East Harlem that killed eight people and injured about 50.

The settlement was approved on Thursday by the state’s Public Service Commission. The commission had found that Con Ed violated state safety regulations.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it was the highest payment for a gas safety incident in New York State history.

The settlement includes a $25 million fund to benefit Con Ed gas customers. The rest will go toward gas safety education, repairs of leak-prone gas pipes, and explosion-related costs incurred by residents and businesses.  \

The sudden explosion rocked the neighborhood on March 12, 2014 about 15 minutes after someone reported smelling gas in a nearby building, authorities said.

In 2015, the National Transportation Safety Board found that the explosion was likely caused by a faulty connection between two Con Ed gas pipes and a hole in a nearby sewer line that had gone eight years without repair.

Con Ed spokesman Philip O’Brien said the utility has “launched or expanded many proactive safety measures” since the explosion.

Con Ed never admitted any wrongdoing.


Two more atmospheric rivers heading toward California

By Mark Gomez
PUBLISHED: February 16, 2017 at 5:54 am | UPDATED: February 16, 2017 at 8:08 pm

Two more atmospheric rivers are barreling toward California, including one early next week that will bring a new torrent to Lake Oroville.

The wettest winter in 20 years, courtesy of a never-ending conveyor belt of storms, has washed away the drought in 75 percent of the state. But it has also caused tens of millions of dollars in damage, leading Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency last month.
Friday, the first atmospheric river is expected to deluge Southern California with as much as 6 inches of rain. It will also soak the Bay Area.

The second atmospheric river will arrive Monday, and its heaviest rainfall is forecast to occur in Northern California.

“The heaviest rain could go right into the Oroville area,” said Bob Benjamin, a National Weather Service forecaster. Nearly 190,000 people were evacuated from the area Sunday amid concerns about a crumbling emergency spillway at an overflowing Lake Oroville.

The new storms have also stoked concerns about additional flooding, mudslides and road closures potentially affecting Highway 17, streams including Coyote Creek in Santa Clara County and travelers heading to and from the Sierra Nevada.

In just one week, the percentage of California considered to be in a drought dropped by 22 percent, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a weekly report issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Nebraska. A year ago, just 5 percent of the state was out of drought.

The largest percentage of the state that remains in a drought is in Southern California, which on Friday could see its strongest storm in the past six years, according to the National Weather Service Los Angeles office. The weekly drought report, published on Thursdays, did not take into consideration any precipitation that will fall through Tuesday.

“I wouldn’t be surprised at all if there’s more widespread improvement across California,” said Jessica Blunden, a climatologist with NOAA who wrote Thursday’s drought report. “I would expect more big improvements.”

While the brunt of Friday’s atmospheric river will be felt by Southern California, the Bay Area will see its share of rain, Benjamin said. Monterey Bay will likely see rain early in the morning as the storm moves south to north, delivering rainfall totals ranging from 1 to 2 inches in the hills and a quarter-inch to 1 inch in urban locations.

The storm could impact efforts to clear a mudslide from a stretch of Highway 17 in Scotts Valley and repair the auxiliary spillway of the Oroville Dam.

Of greater concern is another atmospheric river that could soak Northern California on Monday, with the heaviest rainfall north of the Golden Gate and in the Sierra Nevada, Benjamin said.

He added that the Santa Cruz Mountains could also see heavy rainfall, which might result in more mudslides and blocked roadways. Thursday, a stretch of northbound Highway 17 near Scotts Valley remained closed as Caltrans crews continued to clear a mudslide from last week.

On Friday, Anderson Dam in southern Santa Clara County could reach 100 percent capacity for the first time since 2006, resulting in water releases that could cause flooding along Coyote Creek. Anderson Reservoir cannot be more than 68 percent full, a mandate issued in 2009 by the state’s Division of Safety of Dams in Sacramento because of concerns that the dam could fail in a major earthquake.

That order allows for the reservoir to fill up during heavy rains, as long as waters are drained as quickly as possible. Anderson’s outlet has been 100 percent open since Jan. 9, releasing water into Coyote Creek at a rate of more than 400 cubic feet per second, according to the Santa Clara Valley Water District. But the amount of rain and runoff flowing into the reservoir has at times exceeded the rate of water being released.

The storm Friday is the second in a series of four. It follows a quick-moving system Thursday that delivered modest rainfall totals, ranging from nearly 2 inches in Venado in Sonoma County, 1.33 inches in the Santa Cruz Mountains and less than a half-inch in most cities.

Drier weather is in the forecast for the weekend. A fourth system is set to follow Monday’s atmospheric river, arriving late Tuesday night, according to the weather service.

Rainfall totals throughout the Bay Area are all running above average for the season, which began on Oct. 1, including Santa Rosa, which has received a staggering 47.41 inches (195 percent of normal). Others include San Francisco at 22.22 inches (139 percent), Oakland at 19.47 inches (146 percent) and San Jose at 11.90 inches (120 percent).


'Biggest storm of winter' to unleash flooding rain in California at week’s end
By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
February 16, 2017, 7:04:05 PM EST

A new train of storms has arrived along the Pacific coast, and a potent one is set to hit California hard with heavy rain, mountain snow and strong winds to end this week.

The first storm will focused on areas from Northern California to Washington during Wednesday and Thursday.

The second storm in the series will focus most of its moisture on Central and Southern California from Thursday night to Saturday.

"The late-week storm has the potential to be the biggest of the winter in terms of rainfall and impact to much of Southern California," according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Jim Andrews.

The storm will bring enough rain and excess runoff to cause flash flooding, which can cause major delays for motorists. Along with the heavy rain will be the potential for mudslides in some neighborhoods, especially in recent burn scar locations.

"We expect 3 to 6 inches of rain to fall in the lowlands along the coast and over the Los Angeles basin," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Ken Clark. "From 6 to 12 inches of rain is likely below snow levels in the mountains, especially along the south-facing slopes."

In the Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, California areas, much of this rain may fall in 24 hours from early Friday morning through Friday night. In San Diego, the heaviest rain will fall Friday evening into Saturday morning.

Pedestrians cross a rainy street in downtown Los Angeles on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017. From Dec. 1, 2016, through Feb. 14, 2017, nearly 15 inches of rain has fallen on Los Angeles, which is about twice that of average for the period. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

That much rain in such a short period of time could lead to some roads becoming impassable for a while.

"From Los Angeles to Santa Barbara County, this storm will bring a widespread and significant flood threat," Clark said.

The combination of heavy rain, a low cloud ceiling and gusty winds will also lead to airline delays.

As the ground becomes soggy again, gusty winds will raise the risk of fallen trees and sporadic power outages.

In addition to strong winds, there can also be locally severe thunderstorms on Friday. It is possible a couple of the strongest storms produce a brief tornado.

Snow levels will remain well above the passes in Southern California. However, those venturing over Donner Pass are likely to encounter slippery conditions. The ski resorts in the Sierra Nevada will likely receive 1 to 3 feet of snow from the storm later this week.

In the wake of the big rain through Friday night, spottier showers will continue to dampen the region on Saturday and Saturday night.

However, locally heavy rain will hit parts of the Desert Southwest and northwestern Mexico this weekend.

The rain will fall in a hurry over the deserts. Normally dry stream beds can quickly fill with water. Motorists should be prepared for flash flooding in cities such as Palm Springs, California, Las Vegas and Yuma, Arizona.

No rain is projected to fall on Southern California during the period from Sunday through next week. The break in the rain will allow crews and property owners to clean up after the storm.

Another storm will roll ashore from the Pacific during Sunday. Most effects from the storm, including the potential for significant flooding will be focused over Northern California during the first part of next week.

As a result of the ongoing storms, more challenges are ahead for crews, officials and residents in the Oroville, California, area. Damage to the spillway at the Oroville Dam forced evacuations earlier this week.

Rainfall from the storms through Friday have the potential to aggravate the situation around Oroville and other reservoirs filled to capacity in Northern California. Additional rainfall will force officials to release more water downstream. Some of these rivers are already at flood stage.

The rainfall to end this week will take another big chunk out of the drought over Southern California.

Total rainfall since Dec. 1 over much of Southern California has ranged from 1.5 to 2.5 times that of average.

While less than 1 percent of the state remained in extreme drought as of last week, much of the region remained in moderate to severe long-term drought, according to the United States Drought Monitor.