The mastermind behind the 'Fat Leonard' US Navy scandal is on the run after cutting off his GPS tracker.
Malaysian businessman Leonard Glenn Francis had been on house arrest in San Diego after pleading guilty in 2015 to bribing members of a US Navy fleet into providing classified information about the movement of US ships and submarines.
The mogul, nicknamed 'Fat Leonard' due to his towering physique, was alleged to have exchanged at least half a million dollars in cash, luxury items, and sex workers for confidential information in a bid to win contracts for his maritime services firm, Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA).
Members from the San Diego Fugitive Task Force are searching for Francis Leonard. Also known as "Fat Leonard", he cut off his GPS monitoring bracelet on Sunday morning. Task Force Officers went to his residence and upon arrival noticed the house was now vacant. pic.twitter.com/Ov8ilCVoUt— USMS San Diego (@USMSSanDiego) September 6, 2022
Francis was set to be sentenced for his involvement in the fraud scheme on 22 September, but on Sunday (September 4) he managed to cut off his GPS ankle bracelet and flee.
Speaking to The San Diego Union-Tribune, where the news was first reported, Supervisory Deputy US Marshal Omar Castillo said: "He was planning this out, that’s for sure."
San Diego officers noticed he was missing following a welfare check requested by Pretrial Services, a federal agency responsible for monitoring Francis, after it noticed the tracking device had been tampered with.
Castillo went on to say that authorities will be notified to be on the lookout at the escapee, including alerts placed at international borders and airports in case he tries to get out of the country.
Upon the news that he'd managed to break free, attorney Michael Crowley, who defended one of the former Navy officials in the trial, said: "Obviously it’s very disappointing.
"He started all this and we wanted him to testify since this was the crux of the government’s case. Here, they’ve let him slip right through their fingers."
Prosecutors in the trial argued that information fed to Francis helped his company to bag contracts and overcharge the US Navy by $35 million for services, such as delivering tugboats, security, and waste removal.
According to the government's sentencing documents, the bribery started as far back as 1997. Suspicions about GDMA's contracts were raised by a Naval officer in 2006, followed by a lengthy investigation.
In June this year, four Navy officers involved in the case were found guilty, while another 29 people, including naval officials, contractors, and Francis pleaded guilty.
UNILAD has contacted the San Diego Police Department and Pretrial Services for comment.
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