WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former senior contracting officer for the U.S. Defense Department pleaded guilty on Thursday to charges he accepted bribes from a foreign defense contractor at the center of a corruption and fraud scandal, the U.S. Justice Department said.

Paul Simpkins, 61, of Virginia, admitted accepting cash, travel expenses and the services of prostitutes from Malaysian businessman Leonard Glenn Francis, also known as "Fat Leonard," the former chief executive of Glenn Defense Marine Asia, or GDMA, the department said in a statement.

"Simpkins admitted that during the years-long scheme, Francis provided him with hundreds of thousands of dollars through wire transfers to a bank account in Japan controlled by Simpkins's former wife," the statement said.

In return, the Justice Department said, Simpkins used his influence within the U.S. Navy to benefit GDMA, including by extending GDMA's contract even though a subordinate recommended it not be extended because of high costs.

Simpkins' sentencing was set for Sept. 9, it said.

Earlier this month, a U.S. Navy rear admiral pleaded guilty to a charge of lying to federal investigators in connection with the "Fat Leonard" case.

Francis pleaded guilty last year to bribery charges.

(Reporting by Eric Beech; Additional reporting by Daniel Wallis in New York; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Peter Cooney)