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Navy bribery scandal mastermind Leonard Francis flees ahead of sentencing

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The Malaysian defense contractor who pleaded guilty to bribing navy officials with sex parties, fancy dinners and booze in a massive bribery scandal escaped just weeks before the date of his conviction.

Leonard Glenn Francis, also known as “Fat Leonard” for his eclipse, fled on Sunday while under house arrest in San Diego, where he was awaiting a September 22 court hearing. A multi-agency search by the San Diego Regional Fugitive Task Force and the Navy Criminal Investigative Service is underway, officials said.

“He cut off his GPS monitoring bracelet on Sunday morning,” the US Marshals Service said. announcement late Monday. “Officers from the task force went to his residence and upon arrival noticed that the house was now vacant.”

The Navy is working with the US Marshals Service and other federal agencies “to locate and apprehend Mr. Francis,” a service spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday. “Out of respect for the investigative process, we cannot comment further at this time,” the spokesperson added.

A few days before his disappearance, neighbors recalled seeing moving trucks to Francis’s home, Deputy Supervisor Omar Castillo of the U.S. Marshals District in Southern California told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“He was planning this for sure,” Castillo told the newspaper, which was first to report Francis’ escape. Castillo did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday night.

Leaks, Feasts and Sex Parties: How ‘Fat Leonard’ Infiltrated the Navy’s Floating Headquarters in Asia

Devin Burstein, Francis’ attorney, said in an email to The Washington Post that he had “no comment at this time.”

Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 to offering Navy officials $500,000 in cash bribes in the service’s biggest corruption scandal. Prosecutors say it was all part of an effort to defraud the military branch of some $35 million.

Francis’ Singapore-based company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia, provided items and services needed by Navy submarines and ships in port, such as food, water, waste removal and fuel. But investigators alleged that Francis’ company overcharged for his services and falsified some invoices.

The 7th Fleet is reeling from a series of deadly ship strikes and one of the worst corruption scandals in Navy history. (Video: Jason Aldag, Dan Lamothe/The Washington Post)

He bribed navy personnel in the Asia-Pacific region in exchange for classified information on ship movements to win more military contracts. Francis offered approximately $1 million in Cuban cigars; luxury items; meals at Michelin-starred restaurants; and a party with what prosecutors described as a “rotating carousel of prostitutes,” a Post investigation found. Other items included tickets to a Lady Gaga concert and a Gucci fashion show, according to court documents.

The Navy prohibits personnel from accepting gifts over $20. There is a $50 annual limit on accepting gifts from a single source. But hundreds of active duty and retired personnel – including some 60 admirals – were under scrutiny for possibly violating military laws or ethics rules as part of the investigation, The Post reported. . Most were later cleared.

More than 30 people—including Navy officers, enlisted sailors, contractors, and Francis employees—have been convicted or pleaded guilty to participating in the conspiracy.

Prostitutes, Vacations and Money: ‘Fat Leonard’ Navy Officials Stalled

The scale of the scandal has baffled civilians and military since it came to light in 2013, and many are wondering: how did the fleet succumb so easily to the temptations of Francis?

“That’s what this case is really about, it’s how easily the souls of the navy have been sold, the honor of the navy has been sold for prostitutes, for lavish dinners , for money at the expense of American interests,” Rachel VanLandingham, a former Air Force officer and military legal expert, told NPR. in June.

In a nine-part podcast about the scandal, Francis told Tom Wright, “I’m not military, I’m just a civilian, I’m not an American citizen, and all these senior naval officers would just to answer me: “Do this, and they will move the ships for me.

However, its reach collapsed in 2013, when federal agents staged an undercover operation at a San Diego hotel. Since pleading guilty in 2015, Francis has worked as a cooperating witness for federal prosecutors in prosecutions against others involved in the conspiracy – and has shared evidence, including records from Glenn’s computer servers. Defense Marine Asia.

The man who seduced the 7th Fleet

Following health complications — including kidney cancer, swollen knees and a hernia, according to court records — Francis was released from federal custody in 2018 and placed under house arrest. His home is watched by a security entourage that he pays.

But that arrangement was one that prosecutors battled in 2013 and 2015 – arguing he might try to flee to the Mexican border, The Post reported.

This is one of the scenarios authorities face nearly a decade later.

Castillo told the Union-Tribune that borders and international airports are on high alert, but Francis may have already crossed into Mexico.

Craig Whitlock contributed to this report.

correction

An earlier version of this story said the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Leonard Glenn Francis may have crossed the Rio Grande, according to a US Marshals Service official. The newspaper reported that Francis could have crossed over to Mexico. The story has been updated.



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