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 fleeing his sentencing, authorities said on Wednesday.
The international manhunt for Leonard Glenn Francis ended with his arrest by Venezuelan authorities Tuesday morning at 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 a statement posted on Instagram that Francis arrived in Venezuela from Mexico. Rondon said he was on his way to Russia.
The arrest came on the eve of his scheduled sentencing in a federal court in California over a bribery plot that lasted more than a decade and involved dozens of US Navy officers.
It was not initially known when it could be extradited to the United States.
Francis was under house arrest in San Diego when he severed his GPS ankle tag and escaped on September 4. Ten US agencies were looking for Francis, and authorities were offering 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 trying to escape
This undated US Marshals Service photo shows Leonard Francis
The US authorities have also issued a Red Notice urging law enforcement agencies around the world to provisionally arrest anyone with the possibility of extradition. Malaysia and Singapore both have extradition treaties with the United States.
Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 to offering bribes to Navy officials and others totaling more than $500,000 to allow his Singapore-based ship maintenance company Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd. or GDMA to help.
Prosecutors said the company overcharged the Navy at least $35 million for servicing ships, many of which were directed to Pacific ports it controlled.
Francis was allowed to remain in domestic custody to receive medical attention while he cooperated with prosecutors. With his help, prosecutors secured 33 convictions out of 34 accused, including more than two dozen naval officers.
His sentencing date had been delayed for years as he continued to support prosecutors. He was preparing to appear on the stand in a trial earlier this year to testify against five former Navy officers, but he was never subpoenaed.
Last year he boasted on a podcast about turning in admirals with liquor and prostitutes, and the sweet whistleblowing deal he struck with the US government.
Francis is shown with Rear Admiral Bolivar, who was under investigation as part of the scandal.
Senior Navy officials at a party that Francis says he threw for them in his unofficial role
“All were in my pocket. I had them rolling around in my palm. I had the Navy on her balls. I turned my torpedo and guns on them because they betrayed me,” says Francis in one 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 do. My children are my children.
In an episode of the podcast, he proudly spoke about going after Michael Misiewicz, a commander whom he supplied with prostitutes in Tokyo in exchange for secret shipping routes to Australia.
“Misciewicz had value, you know, he was sort of number two in the planning department.
“If you look at him he’s actually a really nice guy, a very gentle personality, kind, a great father to his kids, a womanizer…” Francis said, adding that his number two – New Yorker Edmond Aruffo – “embedded” him.
“They wanted the good life they couldn’t have. They wanted the fine dining, the fine gifts, hotel rooms, limousines, luxury cars, watches, handbags, fancy meals, alcohol, cigars,” he said.
Francis had infiltrated Misiewicz’s family and friends while working on the USS Blue Ridge from Manila in 2011.
He gave him and his family tickets to The Lion King in Tokyo, bought his wife Marcy a Gucci handbag when she became suspicious of him, and arranged for Michael to have regular sleepovers with prostitutes in Tokyo.
The scheme collapsed in 2013 after Marcy Misiewicz, Michael’s wife, suspected he was cheating on her and confronted him. He hit her and she reported it to NCIS, who started filtering Michael’s email.
Among them was the exchange with Francis where Michael had supplied secret shipping routes to Australia.
Francis, who had a spy with NCIS, found out and tried to placate her, but was eventually arrested along with Misiewicz, who was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Francis also suggested that some of the most senior admirals he corrupted would be protected by the Navy, a claim bolstered by the fact that some were disciplined in military courts while others were prosecuted by the Justice Department.
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, although he had never lived in the United States at the time
The Braveheart, Fat Leonard’s warship, which he purchased in 2003, was used as a “floating brothel,” according to some of those interviewed in the investigation
“Some of the more senior admirals have been treated by the Navy because then they can be swept under the rug, it’s little more than a slap on the wrist, they call it ‘different beatings for different ranks’.
“As an admiral, you don’t get punished like a junior,” Wright said.
The case resulted in federal criminal indictments against 34 naval officials, defense contractors including Francis, and the Glenn Defense Marine Asia Corporation.
So far, 26 of them have pleaded guilty and many have been sentenced to several years in prison.
US Navy Capt. Daniel Dusek, center, leaked secret ship schedules and piloted aircraft carriers at control ports controlled by Glenn Defense in exchange for prostitutes, alcohol and stays in luxury hotels
Navy Rear Admiral Robert Gilbeau (left) was sentenced to 18 months in prison and Commander Michael Misiewicz (right) to six years in prison