June 10, 2023

A military contractor known as “Fat Leonard” who cut off his ankle bracelet and went on the run after pleading guilty in a major US Navy corruption scandal has been arrested in Venezuela, authorities said Wednesday.

Leonard Glenn Francis, who was under house arrest in San Diego and weeks away from sentencing, had his GPS tracker removed on Sept. 4, according to US Marshals Service. Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 to bribing Navy officials in a $35 million scam, marshals said.

Francis was caught by Venezuelan authorities, who alerted him that he was an Interpol fugitive, while trying to board a plane to another foreign country, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals.

He will remain in Venezuelan custody while US Marshals and other federal authorities work out the details of his extradition to the United States.

Francis was arrested in 2013 He pleaded guilty to paying $500,000 in bribes to Navy officers, who in return shared secret information with him and redirected military ships to ports that would benefit his Singapore-based ship services company.

Prosecutors say Francis and his firm billed the U.S. military more than $35 million.

The former military contractor has been under house arrest since at least 2018.

Before his disappearance, US Pretrial Services, the federal agency tasked with monitoring his house arrest, received an alert that his GPS ankle monitor was being tampered with. Pretrial Services then notified the U.S. Marshals Service about the GPS alert, the agency said.

Members of the San Diego Fugitive Task Force went to Francis’ residence and, after announcing themselves, entered his home through an unlocked door, the Marshals Service said. Officers were unable to locate Francis, but his GPS ankle monitor was cut off, marshals said.

Francis’ neighbors told U.S. Marshals that several U-Haul trucks had been in and out of the home throughout the week, said Omar Castillo, Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal. San Diego Union Tribune Report

It was clear that Francis had been planning his escape for some time, Castillo said.

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