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Saturday, May 26, 2018
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Steve Otto Columns

Otto: ‘Wolf Pack’ accused of selling out national security

To some it is only a story of greed and corruption. If it is true, it is much worse.

We don’t use the word “traitor” much in public these days. It’s more understanding to lump what some might see as traitorous actions as whistleblowing or something noble.

But if what one Navy commander at MacDill and others are alleged to have done turns out to be true, then it goes well beyond the bribery charges we’ve been hearing about. That this story is coming to light shortly before Veterans Day is all the sadder.

It sounds like something out of a cheap thriller. At least three Navy officials, including Navy Cmdr. Jose Luis Sanchez, 41, now stationed at MacDill, were recently arrested and charged with accepting a laundry list of goodies from high-end hotels, cash, plane tickets and prostitutes, all arranged by a Malaysian contractor known as “Fat Leonard.”

Investigators say Sanchez and others known as the “Wolf Pack” were part of a scheme that would overcharge the Pentagon by millions of dollars.

Even darker is that those arrested are accused of selling information that included naval movements and other sensitive security information.

This is not whistleblowing, but it is a threat to American security. That there are suggestions that this is only the tip of a widening scandal are even more discouraging.

And that this is happening at the same time when we are remembering the millions of veterans who have sacrificed so much in the service of their country makes you wonder how isolated these cases are in the military establishment.


There was a time, if you are old enough to remember, when you pulled into a gas station and an attendant would come out, pump your gas, check the fluids under the hood, put a little air in your tires if needed and maybe even toss in some free glasses or towels if you filled up.

Now, of course, you pump your own gas and probably ignore the fluids and air pressure.

Life is a little different if you have a disability and are unable to even reach the pump handle.

Fortunately, phone numbers are now required on gas pumps in Hillsborough and six other Florida counties so that drivers with disabilities can call for pumping assistance on their cellphones.

Efforts to enact state legislation last year in all 67 Florida counties failed. Ben Ritter, co-chairman of the Tampa Mayor’s Alliance for Persons with Disabilities, says there will be a forum Wednesday from 2-4 p.m. at the Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind, 1106. W. Platt St., with state Sen. Jeff Brandes and Rep. Mark Danish pushing legislation for the 2014 session.

Ritter says the situation has improved dramatically in the seven-county area and hopes this will act as incentive next spring in Tallahassee.


Finally, it won’t quite be the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month on Monday, but I’m honored to be with the veterans at Sun City Center to honor veterans everywhere.

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