- Navy suspends classified access of Vice Adm. Ted Branch, Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless
- Branch is director of Naval Intelligence, Loveless is director of Intelligence Operations
- Navy spokesman: Neither has been charged with any crime or violation
- 3 Navy officials and a defense contractor have been arrested in a bribery probe
The U.S. Navy on Friday suspended two senior military intelligence officers' access to classified materials in connection with an investigation into alleged illegal and improper relations with a defense contractor.
Classified access was suspended for Vice Adm.Ted Branch, director of Naval Intelligence, and Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless, director of Intelligence Operations, according to Rear Adm. John F. Kirby, Navy chief of information.
Kirby said the decision to suspend their classified access was made based upon the nature of allegations against Branch and Loveless in connection with an ongoing Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigation.
The NCIS is investigating possible illegal and improper relations with Navy contractor Leonard Francis, a Malaysian citizen and CEO of Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd.
There is no indication, nor do the allegations suggest that there was any breach of classified information, Kirby said. Neither Branch nor Loveless has been charged with any crime or violation. Both retain their ranks and security clearances. They are on temporary leave.
Kirby said the suspension was deemed prudent given the sensitive nature of the admirals' current duties and to protect the integrity of the investigative process,
The allegations against Branch and Loveless involve conduct prior to their current assignments and flag officer ranks, Kirby said.
NCIS initiated the investigation in 2010.
"We will continue to make public as much information as we can without prejudicing the conduct of this investigation," Kirby said in a statement.
On Wednesday, Cmdr. Jose Luis Sanchez, 41, was arrested in Florida and faces charges of conspiracy to commit bribery, according to the U.S. attorney's office in San Diego.
He was the third Navy official has been charged in a case accusing them of accepting prostitution and other services from Francis in exchange for business and favorable treatment, according to the attorney's office.
Francis was arrested earlier this year in San Diego.
Federal prosecutors allege Sanchez, as deputy logistics officer in the U.S. 7th Fleet and later as the Fleet Logistics Command's operations director, directed Navy business and sensitive information to Francis' company, which provides security, supplies and other services to U.S. Navy ships at various ports.
In return, Francis gave Sanchez more than $100,000, travel expenses and prostitutes during a period covering January 2009 to April 2013, the U.S. attorney's office said.
Two other Navy officials -- Cmdr. Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz and Naval Criminal Investigative Service Supervisory Special Agent John Bertrand Beliveau II -- were arrested in probes involving Francis' company in September.
According to federal prosecutors, Misiewicz, 46, as deputy operations officer of the U.S. 7th Fleet, helped schedule visits of U.S. Navy ships to ports where Francis' company worked.
"In return, Francis provided Misiewicz with paid travel, luxury hotel stays and prostitution services," the San Diego U.S. attorney's office said.
The information Misiewicz passed on to Francis was "confidential," meaning its disclosure could cause serious harm to U.S. national security, the U.S. attorney's office said. It detailed Navy ship movements months in advance, according to the U.S. attorney.
A separate complaint alleges Beliveau, 44, provided Francis with information about an NCIS fraud investigation into his company's dealings with the Navy.
"In exchange, Francis provided Beliveau with, among other things, paid travel, luxury hotel stays and prostitution services," the U.S. attorney's office said.
No evidence was found that Beliveau paid for his hotel or travel, or that he reimbursed Francis for the trip. Francis also arranged for a female escort to entertain Beliveau while there, according to the complaint.
In return, Francis allegedly saved 125 NCIS investigative reports to his government computer. The affidavit states the reports were in connection with the NCIS investigation into Glenn Defense Marine Asia -- Francis' company.
Francis, Sanchez, Misiewicz and Beliveau are charged with conspiring to commit bribery and could face up to five years in prison if convicted.