SAN DIEGO >> A Malaysian defense contractor nicknamed “Fat Leonard” who orchestrated one of the largest bribery scandals in U.S. military history has been arrested in Venezuela after fleeing before his sentencing, authorities said today.
The international manhunt for Leonard Glenn Francis ended with his arrest by Venezuelan authorities Tuesday morning at the Caracas airport as he was about to board an airplane for another country, the U.S. Marshals Service said.
Interpol Venezuela Director General Carlos Garate Rondon said in a statement posted on Instagram that Francis came to Venezuela from Mexico. Rondon said he was headed to Russia.
The arrest came on the eve of his scheduled sentencing in a federal court in California 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 home arrest in San Diego when he cut off his GPS ankle bracelet and escaped on Sept. 4. Ten U.S. agencies searched for Francis and authorities issued a $40,000 reward for his arrest.
U.S. authorities also issued a red notice, which asks law enforcement 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 Navy officials and others to help his Singapore-based ship servicing company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd. or GDMA. Prosecutors said the company overcharged the Navy by at least $35 million for servicing ships, many of which were routed to ports he controlled in the Pacific.
Francis had been allowed to remain in home confinement to receive medical care while he cooperated with the prosecution. With his help, prosecutors secured convictions of 33 of 34 defendants, including more than two dozen Navy officers.