‘Fat Leonard,’ a fugitive in a massive Navy bribery case, has been caught in Venezuela

by | Sep 22, 2022 | Top Stories

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Leonard Francis, a Malaysian defense contractor nicknamed “Fat Leonard,” who orchestrated one of the largest bribery scandals in U.S. military history, has been arrested in Venezuela after fleeing before his sentencing, authorities said.

U.S. Marshals Service via AP, File

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U.S. Marshals Service via AP, File

SAN DIEGO — A Malaysian defense contractor nicknamed “Fat Leonard” who orchestrated one of the largest bribery scandals in U.S. military history has been arrested in Venezuela after fleeing before his sentencing, authorities said Wednesday. The international manhunt for Leonard Glenn Francis ended with his arrest by Venezuelan authorities Tuesday morning at the Caracas airport as he was about to board an airplane for another country, the U.S. Marshals Service said.

Francis had traveled to Venezuela from Mexico with a stopover in Cuba, Interpol Venezuela Director General Carlos Garate Rondon said in a statement posted on Instagram. Francis was headed to Russia and was arrested at the main international airport in Caracas, the agency 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. There was no immediate word on when he might be extradited to the United States. At the sentencing hearing Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Janis 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 several issues, and obviously will have an impact on other cases,” she said. A sentencing hearing for four Navy officers who went to trial in the case and were found guilty is set for October. Prosecutors asked the court to note that Francis failed to appear at his sentencing hearing as ordered, while defense attorneys notified the court that they would be filing a motion severing their ties with Francis due to an “irreparable break down of the attorney-client relationship.” Sammartino set a Dec. 14 status hearing for Francis with the caveat that all parties could meet sooner dependi …

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