A military contractor known as “Fat Leonard,” who cut off his ankle bracelet and fled after he pleaded guilty in a major Navy corruption scandal, was apprehended in Venezuela, authorities said Wednesday.
Leonard Glenn Francis, who was on house arrest in San Diego and weeks away from sentencing, removed his GPS tracker Sept. 4, according to the U.S. Marshals Service. Francis had pleaded guilty in 2015 to bribing Navy officials in a $35 million scandal.
Francis was captured by Venezuelan authorities, who had been made aware that he was on the run by Interpol, as he was trying to board a plane bound for another country, a marshals spokesperson said.
Carlos Garate Rondon, director general of Interpol Venezuela, said in a statement that Francis had entered the country from Mexico with a stopover in Cuba. His final destination was Russia, Rondon said.
He was apprehended at Simón Bolívar International Airport and will remain in Venezuelan custody while U.S. marshals and other federal authorities work out details of his extradition to the U.S.
Francis was arrested in 2013. He pleaded guilty to offering $500,000 in bribes to Navy officers, who in exchange shared classified information with him and redirected military vessels to ports that would be beneficial for his Singapore-based ship servicing company.
Prosecutors say Francis and his firm overcharged the U.S. military more than $35 million.
He had been under house arrest since at least 2018.
Before he disappeared, U.S. Pretrial Services, the federal agency in charge of monitoring his home confinement, got an alert that his GPS ankle monitor was being tampered with. Pretrial Services notified the Marshals Service about the alert, the agency said.
Members of the San Diego Fugitive Task Force went to Francis’ residence and, after they announced themselves, went into his home through an unlocked door, the Marshals Service said. Officers were unable to find Francis, but they found his GPS ankle monitor, which had been cut off, the marshals said.
Francis’ neighbors told marshals that several U-Haul trucks had been in and out of the house all week, said Omar Castillo, a supervisory deputy U.S. marshal, The San Diego Union Tribune reported.
It appeared clear that Francis had been planning his escape for some time, Castillo said.
Tim Stelloh contributed.