‘Fat Leonard’ arrested in Venezuela weeks after fleeing house arrest in San Diego

Leonard Glenn Francis ("Fat Leonard") poses for a photo with then-Adm. Gary Roughead, at the time chief of naval operations, during a July 3, 2008, breakfast meeting in Singapore sponsored by the Navy League of the United States Singapore Council and the American Chamber of Commerce Singapore. (Navy League of the United States Singapore Council)

Jessica Schladebeck

New York Daily News

A defense contractor at the heart of one the largest corruption scandals in U.S. Navy history was recaptured in Venezuela, two weeks after he cut off his ankle monitor and escaped house arrest in San Diego.

Leonard Francis, also known as “Fat Leonard” due to his 400 lb. weight at the time, pleaded guilty in 2015 to offering $500,000 in bribes to Navy officers, who in return shared classified information with him and redirected military vessels to ports that would serve the interests of his Singapore-based ship servicing business, Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd.

Prosecutors said the company overcharged the Navy by at least $35 million for servicing ships, many of which were routed to the ports he operated in the Pacific.

Francis remained under house arrest until September 4, when he cut off his GPS tracker just weeks ahead of his sentencing. His disappearance sparked an international manhunt that culminated in his arrest on Tuesday. He was taken into custody at the Caracas airport as he was about to board an airplane for another country, the U.S. Marshals Service said Wednesday. Authorities believe he was heading for Russia.

U.S. federal law enforcement had previously issued a “Red Notice” with the multinational policing organization INTERPOL following Francis’ escape earlier this month. The alert is a call on law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action.

An investigation into Francis’ scam was sparked in 2013, with authorities delving into capitals and ports spanning the Pacific, including Singapore, Tokyo, Bangkok and Manila. It also triggered the arrests of multiple Navy officials, all of who were accused of accepting cash, prostitutes and all-expenses-paid trips and then steering ships to Francis’ contracting company.

With Francis’ cooperation, prosecutors secured convictions of 33 of 34 defendants, including more than two dozen Navy officers.

It was not cleat when Francis might be extradited to the United States.

With News Wire Services

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