Entrepreneur behind US Navy scandal escapes house arrest

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Leonard Glenn Francis, the Malaysian national behind the Fat Leonard scandal, escaped house arrest in San Diego on Sunday morning, according to the US Marshals Service.

The businessman, who orchestrated one of the biggest corruption scandals in US Navy history, was just three weeks away from sentencing when he escaped.

Fighter jets fly over the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier in the Seventh Fleet area of ​​operations in June 2016. Fat Leonard escaped house arrest, shortly before his conviction for a corruption scandal involving a number of Seventh Fleet officers.
Lt. Steve Smith/US Navy/GETTY

In 2015, Francis, better known as “Fat Leonard”, pleaded guilty to bribery and fraud charges, defrauding the United States Navy of at least $35 million.

He admitted to using more than $500,000 to bribe Pacific-based US Seventh Fleet officers to obtain classified information on the movements of US warships.

This information was used to maximize profits for his Singapore-based company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia, which entered into contracts to maintain the fleet. Francis even had aircraft carriers diverted to ports controlled by his company so he could charge them for resupply.

Deputy US Marshal Omar Castillo told AFP news agency that Francis cut off the GPS tracking device fitted around his leg at some point on Sunday morning and then fled.

San Diego police visited the property at 1:45 p.m. after the GPS device began giving unusual readings. They entered the building through an unsecured door and found it empty, with the monitoring device turned off.

The US Marshals Service was called in to help, with help from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which spent more than a decade investigating Francis.

Addressing the San Diego Union-Tribuneneighbors said they saw U-Haul trucks driving in and out of Francis’ multimillion-dollar compound in the days leading up to his escape.

Castillo said alerts were issued at US airports and borders, but admitted Francis may have already escaped to Mexico. He added: “He was planning this for sure.”

Francis was under 24/7 supervision, which he paid for himself, on the instructions of District Judge Janis Sammartino.

Newsweek has contacted the US Marshals Service for comment.

Who is Fat Leonard and how was he caught?

Francis, or “Fat Leonard”, was arrested at a San Diego hotel in 2013, after being lured to the United States as part of an undercover operation.

After suffering from a number of health issues, including kidney cancer, Francis was released on medical parole and, since at least 2018, has been under house arrest.

During this time, Francis acted as a cooperating witness with federal prosecutors, who were building cases against a number of naval officers involved in the scheme.

So far, 17 naval officers have pleaded guilty to offenses related to the scam, including former US Navy Rear Admiral Robert Gilbeau, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2017.

In June, a jury convicted four former US Navy officers of receiving bribes, conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, and conspiracy to bribe.

Sentencing has been set for September 22, although defense attorneys have filed a series of post-trial motions that are expected to be heard first.

On Sunday, the Seventh Fleet announced that two guided-missile cruisers, the USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsvillehad crossed the Taiwan Strait in the first such operation since tensions with China increased in August, when Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, visited the island.

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