Crooked Malaysian contractor ‘Fat Leonard’ arrested in Venezuela
A Malaysian defense contractor nicknamed ‘Fat Leonard’ who orchestrated one of the biggest bribery scandals in US military history has been arrested in Venezuela after he fled before being convicted, authorities said Wednesday.
The international manhunt for Leonard Glenn Francis ended Tuesday morning with his arrest by Venezuelan authorities at the Caracas airport as he was about to board a plane bound for another country, the US Marshals Service said.
Interpol Venezuela director general Carlos Garate Rondon said in an Instagram statement that Francis came to Venezuela from Mexico. Rondon said he was on his way to Russia.
The arrest came on the eve of his scheduled conviction in a California federal court 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.
Francis was under house arrest in San Diego when he cut off his GPS anklet and escaped on Sept. 4. Ten US agencies searched for Francis and authorities offered a $40,000 reward for his arrest.
Leonard Francis, nicknamed ‘Fat Leonard’, is a 57-year-old Malaysian defense contractor who was recently arrested in Venezuela after he was on the run
This undated photo from the US Marshals Service shows Leonard Francis
The US authorities have also issued a red notice, asking law enforcement officers worldwide to provisionally arrest someone with the possibility of extradition. Malaysia and Singapore both have extradition agreements with the United States.
Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 to offering prostitution services, luxury hotels, cigars, gourmet meals and more than $500,000 in bribes to naval officials and others for his Singapore-based ship services company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd. or GDMA, to help.
Prosecutors said the company overcharged the Navy by at least $35 million to maintain ships, many of which were forwarded to ports it controlled in the Pacific.
Francis had been allowed to remain under house arrest to receive medical care while working with the prosecution. With his help, prosecutors secured the convictions of 33 of the 34 defendants, including more than two dozen naval officers.
The date of his sentencing had been postponed for years as he continued to stand by prosecutors. He prepared to appear on the witness stand earlier this year in a trial to testify against five former naval officers, but he was never called.
Last year, in a podcast, he boasted about playing admirals with liquor and prostitutes, and the sweet informant deal he made with the US government.
Francis is shown with Vice Admiral Bolivar, who was being investigated as part of the scandal.
Senior Navy officials pictured at a party Francis says he threw for them in his unofficial role
“Everyone was in my pocket. I had them rolling around in my palm. I had the navy by their balls. I pointed my torpedo, my weapons against them, because they betrayed me,” Francis said in an episode of a nine-part series.
He also revealed that the government had arranged visas for his entire family, saying: ‘Everyone came legally. Uncle Sam knows, everyone knows what I’m doing. My children are my children.
On an episode of the podcast, he spoke proudly of chasing Michael Misiewicz, a commander he provided prostitutes in Tokyo in exchange for secret shipping routes to Australia.
“Misciewicz had value, you know, he was number two in the planning department.
“If you look at him, he’s actually a really nice guy, very gentle character, kind, great father to his kids, womanizer…” Francis said, adding that his number two – New Yorker Edmond Aruffo – “locked him in.” ‘ had.
“They wanted to have the good life they couldn’t have. They wanted good food, nice gifts, hotel rooms, sedans, luxury cars, watches, handbags, fancy meals, alcohol, cigars,’ he said.
Francis had infiltrated Misiewicz’s family and friends in 2011 while working on the USS Blue Ridge off Manila.
He gave him and his family tickets to the Lion King in Tokyo, bought his wife Marcy a handbag from Gucci when she became suspicious, and arranged for Michael to regularly sleep with prostitutes in Tokyo.
The plan collapsed in 2013 after Marcy Misiewicz, Michael’s wife, suspected he was cheating on her and confronted him. He beat her and she reported it to NCIS, who began filtering Michael’s emails.
Among them were exchanges with Francis, where Michael had supplied secret shipping routes to Australia.
Francis, who had a spy in the NCIS, found out and tried to calm her down, but he was eventually arrested, along with Misiewicz, who was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Francis also suggested that some of the top admirals he corrupted were protected by the navy, a claim reinforced by the fact that some were disciplined in military courts while others were pursued by the Justice Department.
Leonard Glenn Francis aka Fat Leonard even bought a decommissioned British warship, calling it the Glenn Braveheart (pictured) and occasionally turning it into a giant party boat
Fat Leonard, aka Leonard Glenn Francis, on his warship – the USS Braveheart – that he bought. He is obsessed with American culture and speaks with an American accent, despite never having lived in the US at the time
The Braveheart, Fat Leonard’s warship, which he bought in 2003, was used as a “floating brothel” in the context of the investigation, according to some interviewees.
“Some of the senior admirals were rounded up by the Navy because they can be brushed under the carpet, it’s just a slap on the wrist, they call it ‘different blows for different ranks’.
“When you’re an admiral, you don’t get punished to the same degree as a junior,” Wright said.
The case has resulted in federal criminal charges against 34 naval officials, defense contractors, including Francis, and the Glenn Defense Marine Asia company.
So far, 26 of them have pleaded guilty and many have been sentenced to several years in prison.
US Navy Capt. Daniel Dusek, center, handed over classified ship schedules and piloted aircraft carriers to revenue ports controlled by Glenn Defense in exchange for prostitutes, alcohol and stays in luxury hotels
Marine Admiral Robert Gilbeau (left) was sentenced to 18 months in prison and Commander Michael Misiewicz (right) was sentenced to six years