Los Angeles, Jun 10 : A US admiral has pleaded guilty to lying about his relationship with a Singapore-based defense contractor at the center of a massive bribery scandal that has tarnished top naval officers. Rear Admiral Robert Gilbeau — the highest-ranking Navy officer charged in the ongoing probe — admitted before a federal judge yesterday in San Diego that he had lied when he told investigators that he had never received gifts from Leonard Francis, owner of Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA).Also Read - US Navy Helicopter Crashes Into Sea Near San Diego; Rescue Ops on

Few admirals in the history of the US Navy have ever been convicted of a felony charge. Gilbeau, 55, told the court that he had misled investigators when he told them he always paid his share when he and Francis dined together about three times a year over a period of several years. He also admitted that he destroyed documents and deleted computer files when he became aware in September 2013 that Francis and others had been arrested in connection with the fraud and bribery probe. (ALSO READ: US Navy to have 60 percent surface ships in Indo-Asia Pacific region) Also Read - Aliens Under The Sea? UFOs Aren’t Coming From Outer Space But From Beneath The Sea, Claims Expert

Gilbeau, who was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart during his 37-year career, is scheduled to be sentenced in the case on August 26. His attorney David Benowitz told AFP that he would seek probation for his client while prosecutors have agreed to ask the judge that Gilbeau be sentenced to no more than 12 to 18 months in prison. Also Read - US Navy Conducts 'Freedom of Navigation' Ops Near Lakshadweep Without Prior Indian Consent

According to the plea deal, Gilbeau also agreed to pay USD 50,000 restitution to the Navy and a USD 100,000 fine. He will also perform 300 hours of community service. “Of those who wear our nation’s uniform in the service of our country, only a select few have been honored to hold the rank of admiral — and not a single one is above the law,” prosecutor Laura Duffy said. “Admiral Gilbeau lied to federal agents investigating corruption and fraud, and then tried to cover up his deception by destroying documents and files.”

Francis admitted in January that his company, which provided port services, plied naval officers with cash, prostitutes, Cuban cigars and Kobe beef to ensure US Navy ships stopped at ports where GDMA operated. The Malaysian businessman earned the nickname “Fat Leonard” in maritime circles because of his girth. So far, a total of 14 people, including 11 current and former Navy officials, have been charged in connection with the case. Seven of them have already pleaded guilty and been sentenced to prison terms ranging from 27 months to six and a half years, accompanied by heavy fines. One of those convicted, US Navy Captain Daniel Dusek, was sentenced in March to 46 months in prison for giving classified information to GDMA in exchange for prostitutes and lavish gifts.