Top Navy officials charged in 'staggering' bribery scheme involving classified information, officials say

VIDEO:Nine high-ranking U.S. Navy officers have been charged with trading classified information in exchange for travel, dinner and prostitution services from a foreign defense contractor, according to the Justice Department.PlayABCNews.com
WATCH Top Navy officials charged in 'staggering' bribery scheme: Officials

Nine high-ranking U.S. Navy officers, including one former admiral, have been charged with trading classified information in exchange for travel, dinner and prostitution services from a foreign defense contractor -- the latest charges in the widening probe, according to the Justice Department.

According to the Justice Department, the Navy officials allegedly took in expensive travel and entertainment expenses as well as prostitution services while steering contracts toward the company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), and blocking its competitors.

They allegedly used fake names and foreign email address to keep their actions secret.

“This is a fleecing and betrayal of the United States Navy in epic proportions, and it was allegedly carried out by the Navy’s highest-ranking officers,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Alana Robinson of the Southern District of California, calling it "a staggering degree of corruption."

The officials were arrested this morning across the country -- in California, Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida, Colorado and Virginia -- and will be tried in federal court in San Diego, California.

A total of 25 people have now been charged in the corruption and fraud scheme, including 20 current or former Navy officials and five from GDMA, a Singapore-based foreign defense contractor formerly run by Leonard Francis. Half of the 25 have pleaded guilty so far.

"The defendants allegedly violated many of their sworn official naval duties, including duties related to the handling of classified information and duties related to the identification and reporting of foreign intelligence threats," Justice officials said in a press release on Tuesday.

In a statement, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service said it: "remains resolved to follow the evidence wherever it leads, and to help hold accountable those who make personal gain a higher priority than professional responsibility,” according to Director Andrew Traver. “It's unconscionable that some individuals choose to enrich themselves at the expense of military security.”