‘Fat Leonard,’ disgraced defense contractor, recaptured after 2-week manhunt
Leonard Francis, the mastermind of the ‘largest corruption scandal in U.S. Navy history,’ was recaptured in Venezuela
Leonard Glenn Francis, a former military contractor at the center of “the largest corruption scandal in U.S. Navy history,” was captured in Venezuela Tuesday morning, after escaping house arrest two weeks ago, according to CNN.
CBS reports that on Sept. 4, U.S. Marshals found Francis’ residence completely cleaned out, except for the GPS ankle monitor Francis cut and left in a cooler full of water. He was allowed to be detained at home to receive medical care, as he was in poor health and suffered from kidney cancer, per the BBC.
Francis, also known as “Fat Leonard”, was captured by Venezuelan authorities at the Simón Bolivar de Maiquetía International Airport near Caracas. Interpol Venezuela Director General Carlos Garate Rondon said on Instagram that Francis flew from Mexico with a stop in Cuba and was attempting to flee to Russia.
According to The New York Times, Francis was arrested hours before he was to appear before Judge Janis L. Sammartino in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, in San Diego, for sentencing. He pleaded guilty to bribery and fraud in 2015, per CNN.
Largest corruption scandal in U.S. Navy history
Francis “befriended a generation of Navy leaders,” bribing officers with gifts, dinners, prostitutes and cash in order to secure contracts with the military, per The Washington Post.
His Singapore-based business, Glenn Defense Marine Asia, was a near monopoly for ship-husbanding in the region, according to the U.S. Naval Institute. Husbanding agents take care of logistical duties like fueling ships in port, restocking water and food, removing sewage and more.
Mike Misiewicz, deputy of fleet operations for the Navy’s Seventh Fleet, told Defense News, “The Navy chose Leonard Francis and GDMA because we got strategic access to places the carriers didn’t go into for years and years. And yes, it cost us money, but the strategic value of some of those things outweighed the expense.”
“Yeah, he was a crook, but he was our crook,” Misiewicz said.
The Washington Post reports that Francis cultivated Navy informants to provide him a steady stream of classified information, “forged invoices, falsified quotes and ran kickback schemes.” An elaborate network of fake subcontractors and port authorities was used to bill the Navy for services that were never provided.
Francis and his business have admitted to $35 million in fraudulent charges, according to The Guardian, but company’s contracts over the last 20 years are estimated to be worth billions.
The Justice Department, as of January 2022, stated that this large-scale investigation has resulted in “federal criminal charges against 34 U.S. Navy officials, defense contractors and the GDMA corporation.”
Their statement reveals that “so far, 28 of those have pleaded guilty, admitting collectively that they accepted millions of dollars in luxury travel and accommodations, meals, lavish gifts, or services of prostitutes, among other things of value, from Francis in exchange for helping GDMA win and maintain contracts and overbill the Navy by over $35 million.”
According to The Washington Post, hundreds of military personnel, including almost 60 admirals, were under scrutiny for their relationship with Francis, though many were cleared. “The Navy has also stripped security clearances from two admirals, including the chief of naval intelligence, for their alleged involvement with Francis,” they report, “although they have not been charged with a crime.”