WASHINGTON – The Justice Department has filed corruption charges against the head of a Busan, Korea,-based husbanding services provider in a case with unmistakable echoes of the Fat Leonard scandal that has rocked the Navy since the investigation was revealed in 2013.
Sung-Yol “David” Kim, head of DK Marine Service, has been charged with one count of conspiracy and one count of bribery, according to documents filed with the Eastern District of Michigan.
The investigation has already netted the former civilian master of the dry cargo ship Charles Drew, a Military Sealift Command ship that operates in the Pacific. James Driver pled guilty July 16 to one count of conspiracy, according to court documents, and is awaiting sentencing.
It’s unclear how deep the alleged fraud ran but it is clear that, DK Marine Services performed extensive work for both Military Sealift Command and US Navy assets, including the carriers Reagan and George Washington, the minesweeper Chief, the destroyer Sterett and numerous other support ships, according to images posted on DK Marine Service’s website.
The news that another husbanding services provider in Asia is at the center of a federal corruption case is a hammer-blow to the Navy, which has been struggling for years as dozens of its officers, including several senior leaders, have come under scrutiny for their dealings with Glenn Defense Marine Asia and its gregarious, corpulent chief executive Leonard “Fat Leonard” Francis.
Husbanding services providers act as fixers for the Navy, contracting with the service to arrange tugs, fresh water and sewer service, cable and internet, trash pickup and various other essential services ships require when in port. Francis was accused of ingratiating himself with Navy officers with everything from golf junkets and prostitutes to Broadway musical tickets to secure contracts that he’d then overcharge for.
The Kim indictment seems to outline a somewhat lower-level scam. The indictment alleges that the DK Marine executive gave Driver, at various times, high-speed rail tickets to visit an unnamed associate in a Korean hospital, a hotel room for him and his family, promises of a job in exchange for classified ship schedules, competitors’ pricing information and other information. Driver used his personal email to communicate with Kim to avoid scrutiny, DoJ alleges.
But investigators also seem to be circling around the former director of operations for MSC’s Busan hub, who is labeled as a co-conspirator but is unnamed in Kim’s indictment. Labeled “co-conspirator 1,” the unnamed operations director of Military Sealift Command Office Busan worked for eight years in the office between 2006 and 2014.
In Driver’s indictment, “co-conspirator 1” is described as being “responsible for directing all aspects of MSC ships’ arrival, logistics support, and departure from port.”
Ships send out the logistics request messages, known as LOGREQs, ahead of port visits that request the services that ultimately are arranged by husbanding agents. According to Kim’s indictment, the Justice Department alleges that Kim instructed Driver not to loop in the contracting agency in Japan, Fleet Logistics Center Yokosuka, formerly known as Fleet and Industrial Supply Center Yokosuka or “FISC,” but to send it directly to MSCO Busan’s ops director, known as “co-conspirator 1.”
Quoting an email between Kim and Driver, the indictment reads “When submitting log reg. Do no Cc fisc. Only [CC-1's first initial] and your other msc reps. You know what I mean. Then [CC-1's first initial] will handle the rest.”
It is unclear how much business was conducted between DK Marine and the Navy during the time “co-conspirator 1” was director of operations.
Military Sealift Command would not comment on the case nor the scope of the investigation, directing questions to the Department of Justice. MSC did, however, confirm that Driver is a retired civilian master. Emails to Kim and his business partners at DK Marine were not answered by press time.
David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.