September 22 (UPI) — A fugitive and former defense contractor known as ‘Fat Leonard’ – who was behind one of the biggest corruption scandals in US military history – has been captured in South America , authorities said.
Leonard Glenn Francis, a Malaysian who worked under contract for the United States Navy, was arrested in Venezuela after fleeing there to avoid sentencing in the United States, Interpol authorities said on Wednesday.
Francis pleaded guilty to related corruption charges in 2015, but was not convicted sooner because he was also a witness and helped US prosecutors with other defendants and charges.
Authorities said Francis was under house arrest in San Diego earlier this month when he cut a GPS tracking bracelet and escaped.
Interpol official Carlos Garate Rondon said Francis traveled to Venezuela via Mexico and was trying to leave when he was captured. He is now at risk of being extradited to the United States.
Francis admitted to a vast corruption scandal involving US Navy personnel that was rare in size and scope. For years, he offered military personnel cash, gifts and many other forms of bribery in exchange for US cooperation in a number of activities that brought him large sums of money. .
Prosecutors say Francis defrauded the US Navy of at least $35 million.
The investigation into Francis’ activities extended to several overseas ports, including Singapore, Tokyo, Bangkok and Manila.
The investigation led to the arrest of numerous Navy officials for corruption. In return, some naval personnel agreed to direct ships to ports operated by Francis’ contracting company. The arrangement earned Francis millions of dollars.
As part of his plea deal, Francis admitted to defrauding the U.S. Navy of tens of millions of dollars by overcharging for services such as fuel and sewage disposal.
Francis, 58, faces up to 25 years in prison.