Fugitive involved in US Navy bribery scandal captured in Venezuela while attempting to board plane

News & Politics

Leonard Glenn Francis, also known as “Fat Leonard,” was captured on Tuesday by authorities in Venezuela at the Caracas airport while attempting to board a plane to Russia, the Associated Press reported. Francis was a Malaysian defense contractor who participated in a massive bribery scandal involving the U.S. Navy.

The defense contractor fled the United States before his sentencing, resulting in an international manhunt.

In 2015, Francis pleaded guilty to offering bribes, prostitution services, luxury hotels, cigars, rare liquor, and gourmet meals to U.S. Navy officials and others in exchange for help with his ship servicing company based in Singapore. He admitted to offering over $500,000 in bribes.

Francis’ company was accused of overcharging the Navy by approximately $35 million for servicing ships. Many of the Navy ships his company serviced were routed to ports Francis controlled in the Pacific.

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While awaiting sentencing, Francis was allowed to remain on house arrest to receive medical care in exchange for his cooperation and assistance in identifying Navy officers involved in the bribery scandal. Francis helped to secure convictions for 33 of 34 defendants.

Four years ago, U.S. District Court Judge Janis Sammartino denied Francis’ request to be placed on house arrest without a constant security presence for fear he would run away. Instead, Sammartino insisted that security guards remain on site.

Earlier this month, Francis cut off his GPS ankle bracelet and fled from his San Diego home. According to Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal Omar Castillo, when law enforcement arrived nearly seven hours after the monitor was removed, no security guards were present.

Castillo stated that neighbors reported seeing moving trucks at the residence one or two days prior to Francis’ escape.

Authorities issued a red notice and offered a $40,000 reward for his arrest.

Francis had a stopover in Cuba on his way to Mexico, and from there, he escaped to Venezuela, Interpol Venezuela Director General Carlos Garate Rondon said in a statement on Instagram.

On Tuesday, Francis was detained and arrested in the country’s main international airport after attempting to catch a flight to Russia.

There is no immediate word on when Francis will be extradited to face sentencing. Law enforcement cooperation between the United States and Venezuela is uncommon, but Director General Rondon reported Wednesday that Francis would be handed over to authorities to begin the extradition process.

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