Fugitive known as 'Fat Leonard' in massive Navy bribery scheme caught in Venezuela
SAN DIEGO - A defense contractor nicknamed "Fat Leonard" who orchestrated one of the largest bribery scandals in U.S. military history was arrested this week in Venezuela after fleeing before his sentencing, authorities said.
Leonard Glenn Francis, a Malaysian national, was arrested by Venezuelan authorities on Tuesday morning at the Caracas airport as he was about to board an airplane for another country, the U.S. Marshals Service said.
The arrest came on the eve of his scheduled sentencing in a federal court in California for a bribery scheme that lasted more than a decade and involved dozens of U.S. Navy officers.
Francis escaped on Sept. 4 after cutting off his GPS ankle bracelet while under home arrest in San Diego. Ten U.S. agencies searched for Francis and authorities issued a $40,000 reward for his arrest.
U.S. authorities also previously issued a red notice, which asks law enforcement worldwide to provisionally arrest someone with the possibility of extradition. Malaysia and Singapore both have extradition agreements with the United States.
Interpol Venezuela Director General Carlos Garate Rondon said in a statement posted on Instagram that Francis came to Venezuela from Mexico. Rondon said he was headed to Russia.
There was no immediate word on when he might be extradited to the United States.
Francis previously pleaded guilty in 2015 to offering prostitution services, luxury hotels, cigars, gourmet meals, and more than $500,000 in bribes to Navy officials and others to help his Singapore-based ship servicing company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd. or GDMA.
Prosecutors said the company overcharged the Navy by at least $35 million for servicing ships, many of which were routed to ports he controlled in the Pacific.
Francis had been allowed to remain in home confinement to receive medical care while he cooperated with the prosecution. With his help, prosecutors secured convictions of 33 of 34 defendants, including more than two dozen Navy officers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. It was reported from Cincinnati.