As part of the US Navy Bribery, Defense contractor ‘Fat Leonard’ was arrested

Navy Bribery- Officials claim that since making his getaway two weeks ago, the wanted Malaysian defense contractor known as “Fat Leonard,” who masterminded one of the biggest bribery scandals in U.S. Navy history, has been hopping between nations in search of a location where he could live in relative safety from American authorities. It nearly succeeded.

Leonard Glenn Francis is believed to have crossed the border into Mexico, then traveled to Cuba and Venezuela before being apprehended on Tuesday at Simón Bolvar International Airport outside of Caracas, according to U.S. and Venezuelan officials, after cutting off an ankle monitor and evading house arrest in San Diego on September 4.

According to Interpol Venezuela Director General Carlos Garate Rondon, who announced the arrest in a message posted on Instagram on Wednesday, Francis had plans to visit Russia. Francis, he said, will be turned over to the nation’s judicial authorities so that extradition procedures could start.

Jurisdiction of the U.S. Marshals Service

In his opinion, Francis was “trying to play the angle of using some countries to go outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. Marshals Service,” according to Greg Rinckey, a former Army attorney who is now in private practice.

“It looks like they caught him just in time,” Rinckey said. “If he made it to Russia, I don’t believe the Russians would have turned him over to us.”

Although there is an extradition treaty between the US and Venezuela, it may be difficult for the US government to get the fugitive back to its territory. The socialist government of President Nicolas Maduro is not formally recognized by the Biden administration, which also has no embassy in Venezuela and slapped harsh sanctions on it that have further strained relations. Rarely do the two nations’ law enforcement agencies work together.

No information was available on Francis’ extradition to the United States at the time.

His scheduled sentencing in a federal court in California for a multi-year bribery conspiracy was the day before the arrest.

In exchange for his cooperation with the prosecution, Francis was permitted to remain in home confinement after entering a guilty plea in 2015. With his assistance, the prosecution was able to convict 33 of the defendants—including more than two dozen Navy officers—out of 34 total.

U.S. Navy ships at ports throughout Asia

As the main point of contact for U.S. Navy ships at ports throughout Asia, the towering man with a wide girth and gregarious personality wielded incredible influence. For many years, ships were supplied with food, water, and gasoline by his family’s ship servicing company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd., or GDMA, based in Singapore.

In addition to selling officers Kobe beef, pricey cigars, concert tickets, and wild sex parties at opulent hotels from Thailand to the Philippines, he also did the same for them. Commanders gave him access to sensitive information in return for steering their vessels—mostly from the Navy’s 7th Fleet—to ports under his control, enabling him to conceal up to $35 million in false charges.

Francis revealed to podcaster Tom Wright, who produced a nine-part series on the case, that one of the people he became friends with was a Russian official. In one episode that was published in October of last year, Francis claimed that the Russian diplomat would unexpectedly drop by his home to deliver vodka and other presents while he resided just a “stone’s throw” away from the Russian Embassy in Singapore.

It’s uncertain if Francis asked his Russian buddies for assistance while he was running from the law.

According to a law enforcement person familiar with the case, Francis was located using a cellphone number that was given to investigators. Francis was discovered on Tuesday in a Caracas area, according to the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue in public.

Following a tip from a cab driver that Francis was leaving a hotel and heading to the airport, Venezuelan officials sent a team of officers there.

Francis, according to the official, wanted to fly to Margarita, an island in the Caribbean that Venezuela hopes to develop into a well-liked vacation spot for Russian visitors due to its magnificent beaches that can be reached by ferry or plane from the mainland. Beginning on October 1st, the government said last month that it will provide five flights every week between Margarita and Moscow. On the island, there are already signs in Russian.

According to the official, Francis later disclosed to authorities that Russia was his intended destination.

If Francis had contacts in Russia who were willing to assist, it is unknown what they expected in exchange. Francis boasted that he still had embarrassing images and footage of senior Navy officers.

Due to the evolving circumstances, his sentence hearing was postponed until Thursday. Francis will require fresh counsel when he returns.

Devin Burstein, his defense attorney, informed the judge that he intended to submit a request to end their connection as a result of an “irreparable breakdown in the attorney-client relationship.” The arrest of his client in Venezuela was not brought up by Burstein.

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Francis will likely receive a longer sentence when he does return, according to the prosecution, who asked the court to record his absence from his scheduled sentencing hearing.

Four Navy officers who were tried and found guilty in the case will have sentencing hearings in October.

Garcia Cano reported from Venezuela’s capital, Caracas. This report was written by Miami-based AP journalist Joshua Goodman.