The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln was one of the "big decks" Daniel Dusek steered towards ports serviced by Glenn Defence Marine Asia. Photo: US Navy via AP
New York: Captain Daniel Dusek was a golden boy of the US Navy, commander of an amphibious assault ship and tipped for higher things.
Yet he was also the "golden asset" of a Malaysian contractor nicknamed "Fat Leonard", steering aircraft carriers into ports with little oversight so the US Navy could be cheated out of millions of dollars in inflated bills.
In return for classified information, he was supplied with prostitutes and lavish gifts.
George W. Bush flashes a "thumbs-up" after declaring the end of major combat in Iraq on board the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in May 2003. Daniel Dusek served with distinction in Iraq. Photo: AP
He has been sentenced to 46 months in prison for a role in a scandal that has escalated into the biggest corruption case to hit the US Navy.
Dozens of officers are under investigation and two admirals - including the chief of naval intelligence - have been stripped of their access to classified information.
Dusek pleaded guilty last year and has offered evidence against his co-accused and the Malaysian mastermind at the heart of the scheme.
During the sentencing in San Diego, California, US District Judge Janis Sammartino said: "It's truly unimaginable to the court that someone in your position with the United States Navy would sell out based on what was provided to you - hotel rooms, entertainment and the services of prostitutes."
She added that his actions "potentially jeopardised national security".
Dusek, 49, was also ordered to pay a $US70,000 ($93,000) fine and $US30,000 in restitution to the US Navy.
His lucrative sideline came to public light in October 2013, when he was commander of the USS Bonhomme Richard. She was docked at her home port of Sasebo in Japan when Navy officials boarded the vessel, relieving him of command.
He was the second-highest ranking officer to be caught up in an investigation that went to the heart of the US Navy's 7th Fleet.
Until that point, he was highly decorated with a distinguished record. After being commissioned in 1989, he deployed during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom in George W. Bush's "war on terror". He served as commander of the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald, winning two Bloodhound Awards for the best-performing anti-submarine ship.
At one point he served as deputy director of operations for the US 7th Fleet, stationed aboard the USS Blue Ridge. It was a position of tremendous power. He served at the centre of the world's biggest naval force, comprising 60 ships and more than 40,000 sailors.
It was during that period, in 2010, he said in his statement, that a "senior officer who was a friend and a mentor" introduced him to Leonard Glenn Francis, the owner of Glenn Defence Marine Asia (GDMA).
At 190 centimetres and weighing more than 160 kilograms, the charismatic character was known in Navy circles as Fat Leonard. To others, aware of how he operated, he was the Lion King.
In evidence that hints at higher-level collusion, Dusek said he was told the contractor was "a great friend of the Navy".
Last year, Dusek admitted forwarding classified information about ship movements to GDMA, which held contracts worth more than $US200 million to supply naval vessels in the region. He also steered vessels into ports where GDMA provided "husbanding services" - from security to pumping out sewage - often at inflated prices.
One potential whistleblower found bills submitted at five times the market rate, but was quietly told to shelve his investigation.
In one instance, Dusek arranged for the USS Abraham Lincoln, an aircraft carrier, to stop at Port Klang, Malaysia, a terminal owned by Francis, the charge sheet said. The 2010 visit cost the US about $US1.6 million.
In return, Dusek was treated to a hotel stay in the Philippines and the services of two prostitutes, according to court documents.
His importance to Francis was revealed in an email recovered by prosecutors. "[Dusek] is a golden asset to drive the big decks [aircraft carriers] into our fat revenue GDMA ports," he wrote.
Francis - who pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy to defraud the US - kept the ships coming to his ports with kickbacks of lavish meals, bundles of cash, luxury hotel stays, women and other gifts ranging from designer handbags to ornamental swords.
On one occasion, according to court records, he threw a dinner for about 30 officers of the USS Ronald Reagan. The bill came to $US23,061 - but the officers were each charged less than $US100.
And then there was his Thai Seal Team, a squad of prostitutes that would greet American ships when they docked in Asian ports.
On Friday, Dusek became the third sailor to be imprisoned.
He said family problems, overwork and heavy drinking made him vulnerable to temptation. In a statement to the court, he wrote: "I have disgraced myself and the navy that I love and now end my naval career in utter humiliation."