A Cambodian-born American who had risen through the ranks of the U.S. Navy to the position of commander was arrested on Monday in Colorado and charged with conspiring to commit bribery, San Diego’s Office of the U.S. Attorney said in a statement.
U.S. Navy Commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz, 47, is accused of having received bribes, mostly in form of luxury travel and prostitutes, from Leonard Francis, the CEO of a Singapore-based company that caters to navy ships when they dock at ports.
In return, Cmdr. Misiewicz and Naval Criminal Investigative Service supervisory special agent John Bertrand Beliveau II allegedly passed on confidential information to Mr. Francis, who used it to acquire Navy contracts worth millions of dollars, according to the statement.
“As part of the conspiracy, Misiewicz sent to Francis information that the Navy had classified as ‘Confidential,’ including schedules reflecting the movements of Navy ships months in advance. Misiewicz also operated as an advocate within the Navy for [Mr. Francis’] interests, urging decisions about port visits and contractor usage that were designed to benefit [Mr. Francis],” the statement reads, adding that Cmdr. Misiewicz, a father of four, had received the services of prostitutes in return.
Less than three years ago, Cmdr. Misiewicz’s personal story was widely covered in national and U.S. media, which heralded him as a perfect example of the American dream.
As a little boy, Cmdr. Misiewicz’s aunt had set up his adoption by an American woman on assignment with the U.S. Navy in Phnom Penh in 1973.
His father and a younger sister perished during the Khmer Rouge, but Cmdr. Misiewicz only learned of their deaths when he first reconnected with his family in 1989.
Thirty-seven years after he left Cambodia, he returned as Navy commander of the USS Mustin.
In a statement released by the U.S. Embassy shortly before a visit to Cambodia in late 2010, Misiewicz said that he was moved to return to the country of his birth.
“America is truly the land of opportunity. It’s the one country on Earth where you start from the rice fields of a war-torn country and rise to command a U.S. Navy destroyer. It doesn’t get any better,” he said at the time.
Cmdr. Misiewicz also said that when he left Cambodia at the age of 6, he had promised to buy his family a large white house upon his return—a promise he fulfilled as Navy commander. Although, he said in 2010, “It wasn’t quite a big white house.”
Cmdr. Misiewicz faces five years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000 if he is found guilty.