Fugitive ‘Fat Leonard’ caught in Venezuela in US Navy bribery case: NPR


Leonard Francis, a Malaysian defense contractor nicknamed “Fat Leonard” who perpetrated one of the biggest bribery scams in US military history, has been arrested in Venezuela after fleeing before serving a sentence, officials said. .

US Marshals Service via AP, File


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US Marshals Service via AP, File


Leonard Francis, a Malaysian defense contractor nicknamed “Fat Leonard” who perpetrated one of the biggest bribery scams in US military history, has been arrested in Venezuela after fleeing before serving a sentence, officials said. .

US Marshals Service via AP, File

SAN DIEGO – A Malaysian defense contractor nicknamed “Fat Leonard” who perpetrated one of the biggest bribery scams in US military history has been arrested in Venezuela. run before his sentenceofficials said on Wednesday.

The US Marshals Service said the international search for Leonard Glenn Francis ended with his arrest by Venezuelan authorities at Caracas airport on Tuesday morning, as he was about to board a plane bound for another country.

Interpol Venezuela Director General Carlos Garrett Rondon said in a statement posted on Instagram that Francis had traveled from Mexico to Venezuela from Cuba. The agency said Francis was on his way to Russia and was arrested at Caracas’s main international airport.

The arrest came on the eve of his scheduled sentencing in a federal court in California for a bribery scheme that spanned more than a decade and involved dozens of US Navy officers.

There was no immediate word on when he might be extradited to the United States.

During a sentencing hearing on Thursday, US District Court Judge Janice Sammartino announced to the court that Francis was in custody in Venezuela and that a “no bail arrest warrant” had been issued.

“This turn of events raises many issues, and will certainly have an impact on other matters,” she said. The sentencing hearings for the four Navy officers who went to trial and were found guilty in the case are set for October.

Prosecutors asked the court to note that Francis failed to appear at his sentencing hearing as ordered, while defense attorneys informed the court that they were “due to the irreparable breakdown of the attorney-client relationship.” Will file a motion to terminate our relationship with

Sammartino scheduled a December 14 position hearing for Francis with the caveat that all parties could meet soon depending on how events unfolded.

“I believe that’s all we can accomplish this morning,” Sammartino said.

Given its poor relations with Venezuela, it may be difficult for the US to get Francis back

The US government is facing a formidable challenge to bring the fugitive back to American soil. The US government does not recognize Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government, has no embassy in the country and has imposed crushing sanctions on the country that have further worsened relations. Law enforcement cooperation between the two countries is rare.

Francis was under house arrest in San Diego when he cut off his GPS ankle bracelet and fled on September 4. Ten US agencies searched for Francis and officials issued a $40,000 reward for his arrest.

US officials also issued a red notice asking law enforcement around the world to temporarily arrest anyone likely to be extradited. Malaysia and Singapore both have extradition agreements with the United States.

Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 to prostitution services, luxury hotels, cigars, gourmet food and bribes of more than $500,000 to Navy officers and others to help his Singapore-based ship services company, Glen Defense Marine Asia Ltd, or GDMA. had got. Prosecutors said the company charged the Navy at least $35 million for servicing the ships, many of which were deported to ports controlled by them in the Pacific.

Francis was allowed to remain in home confinement to receive medical care while he cooperated with the prosecution. With her help, prosecutors convicted 33 of the 34 defendants, including more than two dozen Navy officers.

The judge feared that Francis would try to escape

Sammartino feared Francis would run away when he refused a request four years earlier to allow him to remain under house arrest without security guards.

The judge repeatedly said that despite Francis’ poor health, security guards should be on site to keep him under house arrest.

According to a transcript of an in-camera hearing in February 2018, which was closed in January, Sammartino expressed concern that if Francis fled and returned to Malaysia his name would come up if anyone asked “who Let someone do this without protection.”

According to the court’s transcript, he had raised similar concerns after receiving a report on December 17, 2020, that the house was left without any custodian. The guard was on lunch break and Francis apologized to the judge for the accident.

According to supervisory deputy US Marsha, Omar Castillo, officers found no security guards when they arrived at Francis’ home in a tony neighborhood of San Diego, about seven hours after the ankle monitor was removed. The tool, which was removed with heavy scissors, is believed to have been found in the house.

Castillo said someone had called the San Diego Police Department, which sent officers home on the afternoon of September 4. Officers found the house empty and contacted the US Pre-Trial Services, the federal agency for his imprisonment, which then contacted the US Marshals Service.

Castillo said neighbors reported seeing U-Haul trucks passing through the house a day or two before they fled.

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