A corrupt defense contractor who stole tens of millions of dollars from American taxpayers is now a fugitive on the loose.
Malaysian national Leonard “Fat Leonard” Francis disabled his ankle monitor on Sunday and disappeared, weeks before he was set to be sentenced in the largest corruption scandal in the history of the U.S Navy, according to Fox News.
Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 to bribing “scores” of Navy officials and officers in a scheme to overcharge the Navy for port services in Asia through his company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia, according to The Washington Post.
Leonard built a network of compliant Navy moles who took bribes in return for docking vessels in ports where Francis could overcharge for food, fuel and basic services.
Corruption in the “Fat Leonard” scandal has led to criminal charges against at least 34 people, according to Fox. The corrupt port services dealer was so brazen as to bribe a senior agent of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service who was probing his sweetheart business dealings, The Post reported.
Navy officials on the take from Francis received luxury goods, cash and even prostitutes for steering military dollars toward his company in ports he controlled, according to the Post.
The Malaysian contractor avoided sentencing and prison for years, renting a “sprawling multi-million dollar home” in a gated community for his own house arrest, according to the San Diego Tribune.
Prosecutors authorized pre-sentencing home confinement in San Diego while he assisted them in cases of other defendants connected to his bribery ring.
Leonard was scheduled for sentencing on Sep. 22.
Federal officials monitoring Francis’ ankle bracelet were notified the device had malfunctioned Sunday morning, according to the Tribune.
A member of Francis’ defense team went to check on him but no one answered knocks or messages. They contacted San Diego police at about 1:45 p.m., the Tribune reported.
Police who later arrived at the scene found a home completely empty — except for a sheared GPS bracelet left behind.
Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal Omar Castillo said Francis’ neighbors noticed U-Haul moving trucks arriving outside his home in recent days.
“He was planning this out, that’s for sure,” Castillo said of the fugitive’s disappearance.
United States Marshals are assisting in a manhunt for Francis.
Authorities fear that Francis has already crossed the U.S-Mexico border in a bid to flee justice.
One lawyer who represented a former Navy officer in a Fat Leonard corruption trial isn’t happy to see the architect of the bribery ring escape his prison sentence, at least temporarily.
“Obviously it’s very disappointing,” attorney Michael Crowley told the San Diego Tribune of the development.
“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.”
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