A Malaysian defense contractor nicknamed “Fat Leonard” who launched the largest bribery scandal in US military history has been arrested in Venezuela after fleeing his sentence, authorities say.

An international manhunt for Leonard Glenn Francis by Venezuelan authorities ended at Caracas airport Tuesday morning as he boarded a flight bound for another country, the U.S. Marshals Service said Wednesday.

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, also known as Fat Leonard, allegedly cut off his GPS ankle monitor and left his home earlier this month. Photo: AP

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.

According to prosecutors, officials involved in the scam called themselves the Lion King Harem, the Brotherhood, the Wolfpack as they sought to recruit others into the scam.

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.

Four Navy officers have been convicted in the scam. US media reported that 29 others, including naval officers, contractors and Francis, pleaded guilty.

With the Associated Press

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