The former director of operations of the US Navy’s Military Sealift Command Office in Busan, South Korea, was sentenced Dec. 2 to five years in prison for his role in a bribery conspiracy and lying to federal investigators. Retired Marine Master Sgt. Xavier Fernando Monroy, 65, of Brentwood, New York, took bribes to slide confidential US Navy to a corrupt South Korean contractor. Coffee or Die Magazine composite.
In a case that echoed the Navy’s “Fat Leonard” public corruption scandal, a retired Motor T Marine is headed to prison for sliding Military Sealift Command business to a corrupt contractor plying him with cash, prostitutes, top-shelf booze, fancy vacations, and the high life in ritzy South Korean nightclubs.
On Friday, Dec. 2, in Washington, DC, US District Judge Royce C. Lamberth sentenced Xavier Fernando “Frank” Monroy to five years behind bars, plus another three years of probation when he exits the penitentiary.
A retired master sergeant, Monroy, 65, of Brentwood, New York, was convicted by a federal jury on Aug. 19 for conspiring to defraud the US government, bribery, and lying to investigators.
From 2011 to 2014, Monroy used his position as director of operations at the US Navy’s Military Sealift Command Office in Busan, South Korea, to steer to a local firm nearly $3.4 million in inflated vessel husbanding jobs.
Federal investigators calculated Monroy’s shenanigans cost US taxpayers $703,306.12 in overcharges.
The Military Sealift Command Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo and ammunition ship Charles Drew (T-AKE 10) sails near San Diego, California, on June 18, 2010. Built by General Dynamics-NASSCO shipyard in San Diego, the vessel was named in honor of Dr. Charles R. Drew, the African American surgeon and hematologist who developed procedures for the safe storage and transfusion of blood. Photo courtesy of General Dynamics-NASSCO.
Monroy’s co-defendants cooperated with federal agents and received softer sentences. Corrupt contractor Sung Yol “David” Kim of South Korea’s DK Marine Services Co. Ltd. was sentenced to time served and a $5,000 fine. James Russell Driver III, the ex-captain of the cargo ship Charles Drew, was fined $2,000.
Neither Monroy nor his criminal defense attorney, Peter E. Brill, returned Coffee or Die Magazine’s requests for comment, but in a sentencing memorandum to the judge, Brill said the retired Marine “was no master manipulator, no grand schemer,” but instead “a simple, hardworking, dedicated civilian employee of the Military Sealift Command” who “never saw his actions as engaging in dishonesty, bribery, or acts that would ever hurt his adopted — and beloved — country and our military.”
“Mr. Monroy’s goal was to keep the MSCO ships’ captains happy, which would keep his bosses happy, as well as lead to an efficient command,” Brill continued. “Mr. Monroy viewed DK Marine as the best option for MSCO to meet these goals. As MSCO Korea had operated without significant oversight from the chain of command for so long, he felt that he was doing what was right. When new leadership started looking at the way MSCO Korea had been doing business, there was a clash of cultures and Mr. Monroy became the focus of scrutiny, leading to a large-scale audit and a bureaucratic scandal. Mr. Monroy became the face of that scandal and, as a result, the target of a six-year-long criminal investigation.”
Pointing to Monroy’s multiple Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, and other decorations received during a career that lasted from 1975 to 2000, Brill urged the judge to sentence Monroy to probation, with no time in prison.
On Jan. 8, 2011, US Marines with 3rd Intelligence Battalion, III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, III MEF, loaded their gear onto the Westpac Express High Speed Vessel to transport them to the Republic of Korea where they participated in Operation Winter Surge 2011. US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Rebekka Heite.
Federal prosecutors and investigators painted a very different portrait of Monroy’s work in South Korea.
They spoke of Monroy accompanying Kim to “room salons,” where he asked the contractor to pay for “seconds” from prostitutes. They pointed to $30,000 in “loans” Monroy took from Kim — most of them went unpaid — plus free airline tickets and international vacations.
There were also the confidential internal Navy messages Monroy forwarded to Kim about a dredging project in Busan; a training exercise in Gwangyang Port; and the movements of the Westpac Express High Speed Vessel; not to mention the directions he gave Driver on how to circumvent military regulations during port calls, and the lies he told federal agents in 2019 when they began probing the corruption.
After Monroy left Military Sealift Command in 2014 after 14 years as a federal civilian employee, he quickly landed a job with Kim’s company.
Two years later, he suffered a stroke, and the US Department of Veterans Affairs rates him at least 90% disabled, court records reveal.
Sailors on board the submarine tender Frank Cable (AS 40) mans the rails as the ship pulls into Busan, South Korea, on March 12, 2015. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan T. Erickson.
While Brill played up Monroy’s military service, Assistant US Attorneys Sara A. Hallmark and Amanda F. Lingwood told the judge the retired Marine's time in uniform made his corruption crimes intolerable. That’s because Monroy scored the job at Military Sealift Command and the trust of his Navy bosses based largely on his service to the Corps, they said.
“His decision to engage in a years-long bribery conspiracy at the expense of the country he served for decades is all the more inexcusable in light of those opportunities and advantages,” they wrote in their sentencing memorandum to the judge.
“Monroy used his position of authority within the US Navy for his own personal benefit and to line his pockets. His motive was greed, and his conduct was egregious,” they continued, urging Lamberth to put Monroy away for nearly 18 years.
The judge disagreed and gave him five years behind bars. Monroy remains free on his own recognizance, pending his assignment to a federal penitentiary.
Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
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