A 2006 laudatory "Bravo Zulu" note from then-Vice Adm. Jonathan Greenert.

●"Many of crew are still talking about the great adventures they experienced," then-Capt. John J. Donnelly, then 7th Fleet chief of staff, said in a March 10, 2000, letter. He lauded Francis's "warm hospitality," calling it "truly remarkable" and that it "will long be remembered by all of us." Donnelly would become a three-star admiral and commander of all U.S. submarine forces.

Now retired, Donnelly said he had no memory of ever meeting Francis and that the letter was "a pro forma thank you note" generated by his staff. "I probably signed hundreds of similar letters during my two years in that job," he added.

●"Dear Leonard," wrote then-Vice Adm. Robert F. Willard, then the 7th Fleet commander, on June 3, 2003. "Thank you for the top-notch hospitality. Your timely efforts and service will remain unparalleled." Willard would become a four-star admiral and commander of all U.S. military forces in the Pacific. Now retired, he declined to comment.

●"Thank you for the superb services," gushed then-Vice Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the next commander of the 7th Fleet, on March 9, 2006. "Over the years, the reputation of Glenn Marine remains exceptional. . . . Keep up the great work. I wish you and your staff the very best and continued success!" Greenert would become chief of naval operations, the top job in the Navy. He retired last year and declined to comment.

Francis treated the Bravo Zulu notes as celebrity endorsements, highlighting them in company brochures.

To further advertise his access to the highest levels of command, he published an array of grip-and-grin photographs featuring him alongside the Navy's top admirals in their dress-white uniforms.

One brochure, published in 2008, shows Francis, smiling, in a collage of photos with Greenert and Willard and Adm. Sam Locklear, who later became commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific.

And with Adm. Mike Mullen, a chief of naval operations who became chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And with Adm. Gary Roughead, another chief of naval operations.

All have since retired. Locklear and Roughead declined to comment.

Sally Donnelly, an adviser to Mullen, issued a statement on his behalf saying that he appeared in thousands of informal photographs a year with people, many of whom he did not know.

"Admiral Mullen had no — and has no — personal or professional connection to the individual in this photograph, nor has anyone even suggested that he is in any way party to the activities for which this individual is being investigated," she said.

Another retired admiral, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigations, recalled how he once attended an officers' dinner with Francis. He said he complimented the contractor on his fashionable, bespoke suit and his "blowtorch of a cigar lighter."

The next morning, as the admiral's ship was preparing to leave port, Francis arrived at the pier bearing gifts: a $700 cigar lighter like the one he showed off the night before; two pewter platters worth about $500 apiece; a pack of 25 Cuban Cohiba cigars; and a business card for his bespoke tailor.

The admiral said he declined the presents. "There's no question in my mind that he tried to influence me," he said. "It's like fishing. He's got the hook. If he got an inch, he'd go for a foot. If he'd get a foot, he'd go for a yard."

Glenn Defense also would dispense its largesse under the guise of charity. The firm became a leading sponsor of the Navy League of the United States, a civilian nonprofit group that advocates on behalf of the Navy.

At one military ball organized by the league's Singapore chapter, Glenn Defense donated the top door prize: a pair of his and hers gold Rolex watches, valued at $30,000, according to two individuals who were present.