An active-duty U.S. Navy admiral was sentenced Wednesday to 18 months in prison for lying to federal authorities about his relationship with a foreign defense contractor involved in a massive bribery and fraud scandal that has engulfed more than a dozen current or former Navy officials.

Rear Adm. Robert Gilbeau had pleaded guilty last June to one count of making false statements. According to a release issued by the Department of Justice, Gilbeau is the highest-ranking U.S. Navy officer to be sentenced in the scandal so far.

"This is the first time our nation will incarcerate a Navy admiral for a federal crime committed during the course of his official duty, and it is truly a somber day," Acting U.S. Attorney Alana W. Robinson said in a statement.

As the Two-Way reported, Gilbeau could have faced a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison.

A Singapore-based defense contractor named Leonard Glenn Francis, the owner of Glenn Defense Marine Asia, is at the heart of the scandal. He goes by the nickname "Fat Leonard" owing to his girth. His company provided basic services such as trash and sewage removal, food, water, security and fuel to U.S. Navy ships. American prosecutors say Francis overcharged the U.S. Navy to the tune of more than $34 million.

Gilbeau admitted that he was lying when he told investigators that he always paid for his half of dinner when he and Francis dined together about three times a year. The admiral also admitted that when he learned that Francis and others had been arrested in September 2013, he destroyed documents and deleted computer files.

Francis has already pleaded guilty to bribing scores of Navy officials with luxury hotels, meals, cash, parties and prostitutes. In exchange, Gilbeau signed off on Francis' fraudulent invoices.

In a statement, Robinson said, "When tempted by parties and prostitutes, one of our most respected leaders chose karaoke over character, and cover-up over confession, and in doing so he forever tarnished the reputation of a revered institution."

In his court appearance, Gilbeau expressed remorse for his actions. "I'm deeply sorry and regretful I made the decision I made to make a false official statement," he said. "I can't really explain all the circumstances of why I did that."

In addition to his 18-month sentence, Gilbeau will serve three years of probation, work 300 hours of community service and pay the Navy $150,000 in restitution and fines.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit