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‘Fats Leonard,’ a fugitive in a U.S. Navy bribery case, was caught in Venezuela : NPR


Leonard Francis, a Malaysian protection contractor nicknamed “Fats Leonard,” who orchestrated one of many largest bribery scandals in U.S. navy historical past, has been arrested in Venezuela after fleeing earlier than his sentencing, authorities stated.

U.S. Marshals Service through AP, File


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U.S. Marshals Service through AP, File


Leonard Francis, a Malaysian protection contractor nicknamed “Fats Leonard,” who orchestrated one of many largest bribery scandals in U.S. navy historical past, has been arrested in Venezuela after fleeing earlier than his sentencing, authorities stated.

U.S. Marshals Service through AP, File

SAN DIEGO — A Malaysian protection contractor nicknamed “Fats Leonard” who orchestrated one of many largest bribery scandals in U.S. navy historical past has been arrested in Venezuela after fleeing earlier than his sentencing, authorities stated Wednesday.

The worldwide manhunt for Leonard Glenn Francis ended together with his arrest by Venezuelan authorities Tuesday morning on the Caracas airport as he was about to board an airplane for one more nation, the U.S. Marshals Service stated.

Francis had traveled to Venezuela from Mexico with a stopover in Cuba, Interpol Venezuela Director Basic Carlos Garate Rondon stated in an announcement posted on Instagram. Francis was headed to Russia and was arrested on the foremost worldwide airport in Caracas, the company stated.

The arrest got here on the eve of his scheduled sentencing in a federal court docket in California for a bribery scheme that lasted greater than a decade and concerned dozens of U.S. Navy officers.

There was no speedy phrase on when he could be extradited to america.

On the sentencing listening to Thursday, U.S. District Courtroom Decide Janis Sammartino introduced to the court docket that Francis was in custody in Venezuela and {that a} “no bail arrest warrant” had been issued.

“This flip of occasions raises a number of points, and clearly will have an effect on different instances,” she stated. A sentencing listening to for 4 Navy officers who went to trial within the case and had been discovered responsible is ready for October.

Prosecutors requested the court docket to notice that Francis failed to look at his sentencing listening to as ordered, whereas protection attorneys notified the court docket that they might be submitting a movement severing their ties with Francis attributable to an “irreparable break down of the attorney-client relationship.”

Sammartino set a Dec. 14 standing listening to for Francis with the caveat that each one events might meet sooner relying on how occasions unfold.

“I imagine that is all we will accomplish this morning,” Sammartino stated.

Given its poor relations with Venezuela, it could be tough for the U.S. to get Francis again

The U.S. authorities faces an uphill problem returning the fugitive again to American soil. The U.S. authorities would not acknowledge Nicolas Maduro’s socialist authorities, has no embassy within the nation and has imposed crushing sanctions on the nation that has additional embittered relations. Regulation enforcement cooperation between the 2 nations is uncommon.

Francis was underneath residence arrest in San Diego when he minimize off his GPS ankle bracelet and escaped on Sept. 4. Ten U.S. businesses looked for Francis and authorities issued a $40,000 reward for his arrest.

U.S. authorities additionally issued a purple discover, which asks regulation enforcement worldwide to provisionally arrest somebody with the potential for extradition. Malaysia and Singapore each have extradition agreements with america.

Francis pleaded responsible in 2015 to providing prostitution providers, luxurious motels, cigars, connoisseur meals and greater than $500,000 in bribes to Navy officers and others to assist his Singapore-based ship servicing firm, Glenn Protection Marine Asia Ltd. or GDMA. Prosecutors stated the corporate overcharged the Navy by at the least $35 million for servicing ships, a lot of which had been routed to ports he managed within the Pacific.

Francis had been allowed to stay in residence confinement to obtain medical care whereas he cooperated with the prosecution. Together with his assist, prosecutors secured convictions of 33 of 34 defendants, together with greater than two dozen Navy officers.

The decide had feared Francis would attempt to escape

Sammartino had feared Francis would run when she denied a request 4 years in the past to permit him to be underneath home arrest with out around-the-clock safety guards.

The decide repeatedly maintained that safety guards should be on web site for Francis to be on home arrest, regardless of his poor well being.

In response to a transcript of a closed-door listening to in February 2018, which was unsealed in January, Sammartino expressed concern that her identify would come up if Francis escaped and ended up again in Malaysia if anybody requested “who let any person do that with out safety.”

She raised related considerations in a Dec. 17, 2020, after receiving a report that the house was left with out anybody guarding it for practically three hours, in accordance with the court docket transcript. The guard was on a lunch break, and Francis apologized to the decide for the mishap.

Officers discovered no safety guards after they arrived at Francis’ residence in a tony San Diego neighborhood some seven hours after he eliminated the ankle monitor, in accordance with Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marsha, Omar Castillo. The machine, believed to have been eliminated with heavy scissors, was discovered within the residence.

Castillo stated somebody had known as the San Diego police division, which despatched officers to the house on the afternoon of Sept. 4. Officers discovered the house empty and contacted U.S. Pre-Trial Companies, the federal company answerable for his confinement, which then contacted the U.S. Marshals Service.

Neighbors reported seeing U-Haul vehicles coming and going from the house one or two days earlier than the escape, Castillo stated.

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