A Malaysian defense contractor nicknamed ‘Fat Leonard’ who launched one of the biggest bribery scandals in US military history has been arrested in Venezuela after fleeing his sentence, authorities said Wednesday.
The international manhunt for Leonard Glenn Francis ended with his arrest by Venezuelan authorities at Caracas airport Tuesday morning as he boarded a flight bound for another country, the US Marshals Service said.
Interpol’s director general for Venezuela, Carlos Garrett Rondon, said in a statement posted on Instagram that Francis came to Venezuela from Mexico. Rondon said he was heading to Russia.
The arrest came on the eve of his scheduled sentencing in a federal court in California for a bribery scheme that spanned more than a decade and involved dozens of US Navy officials.
There was no immediate word on when he would be extradited to the United States.
Francis was under house arrest in San Diego when he cut off his GPS ankle bracelet and escaped on September 4. Ten U.S. agencies searched for Francis, and authorities issued 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 being on the run.
This undated photo provided by the US Marshals Service shows Leonard Francis
US authorities have also issued a Red Notice, which asks law enforcement worldwide to temporarily arrest someone with the possibility of extradition. Both Malaysia and Singapore have extradition treaties with the United States.
Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 to providing prostitution services, luxury hotels, cigars, gourmet meals and more than $500,000 in bribes to Navy officials and others to help his Singapore-based ship services company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd, or GDMA.
Prosecutors said the company overcharged the Navy by at least $35 million for ship services, many of which were sent to ports it controlled in the Pacific.
Francis was allowed to remain under house arrest to receive medical care while cooperating with the prosecution. With his help, prosecutors convicted 33 of 34 people, including more than two dozen Navy officers.
His sentencing date was postponed for several years as he continued to assist prosecutors. He was preparing to appear on the witness stand in a trial earlier this year to testify against five former naval officers, but was never called.
Last year, he bragged on a podcast about running admirals with booze and prostitutes and the sweet informant deal he made with the US government.
Francis is shown with Rear Admiral Bolivar, who was investigated as part of the scandal.
Senior Navy officers pictured at a party Francis said he threw for them in his unofficial role.
‘All were in my pocket. I turned them around in my palm. I had the Navy by their force. I turned my torpedoes, my guns against them, because they betrayed me,’ Francis said in an episode of the nine-part series.
He also revealed that the government had arranged visas for his entire family, saying: ‘All arrived legally. Uncle Sam knows, everybody knows what I’m doing. My child is my child.
In one episode of the podcast, he proudly spoke of following Michael Misiewicz, a commander who supplied Tokyo with prostitutes in exchange for secret shipping routes to Australia.
‘Miskiewicz was worth, you know, he was like the number two guy in the scheduling department.
‘If you look at him, he’s a really nice guy, very gentle personality, friendly, great father to his kids, feminist…’ says Francis, adding that his number two – Edmond Aruffo of New York – has ’embedded’ him.
‘They wanted to have the beautiful life they couldn’t have. They wanted fine dining, nice gifts, hotel rooms, sedans, luxury cars, watches, handbags, fancy food, alcohol, cigars,’ he said.
In 2011 Francis infiltrated Misiewicz’s family and friends while working on the USS Blue Ridge out of Manila.
He gave her and her family tickets to the Lion King in Tokyo, bought his wife Marcy a Gucci handbag when she suspected him, and arranged for Michael to regularly sleep with prostitutes in Tokyo.
In 2013, the scheme went awry after Michael’s wife Marcie Misiewicz suspected he was cheating on her and confronted her. He hits her and she reports it to NCIS, which starts filtering through Michael’s emails.
Among them was an exchange with Francis, in which Michael provided secret shipping routes to Australia.
Francis, who was a spy at NCIS, found her and tried to calm her down but was eventually arrested along with Misiewicz, who was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Francis also suggested that some of the senior admirals he found corrupt were protected by the navy, a claim bolstered by the fact that some were disciplined in military courts, while others were pursued by the judiciary.
Leonard Glenn Francis aka Fat Leonard even bought a decommissioned British warship, renamed it the Glenn Braveheart (pictured), and occasionally turned it into a giant party boat.
Fat Leonard, aka Leonard Glenn Francis, on his warship – the USS Braveheart – which he bought. He is obsessed with American culture and speaks with an American accent, despite never having lived in the United States at the time
Braveheart, Fat Leonard’s battleship, which he bought in 2003, was used as a ‘floating brothel’, according to some interviewed as part of the investigation.
‘Some of the more senior admirals were handled by the Navy because then they could be brushed under the carpet, it was little more than a slap on the wrist, they called it ‘different spanks for different ranks’.
‘If you’re an admiral you’re not punished to the same extent as if you’re a junior,’ Wright said.
The case resulted in federal criminal charges against 34 Navy officials, defense contractors including Francis, and Glenn Defense Marine Asia Corp.
So far, 26 of them have pleaded guilty and many have been sentenced to years in prison.
US Navy Capt. Daniel Dusek, center, handed over classified ship schedules and steered aircraft carriers to revenue ports controlled by Glenn Defense in exchange for prostitution, alcohol and luxury hotel stays.
Navy Rear Admiral Robert Guilbeau (left) was sentenced to 18 months in prison and Commander Michael Misiewicz (right) to six years.