‘Fat Leonard’, mastermind of Navy bribery scheme, escapes house arrest weeks before sentencing


Leonard Francis, the former military contractor known as ‘Fat Leonard’ who orchestrated the biggest corruption scandal in US Navy history, is on the run after escaping house arrest in San Diego by cutting off his GPS monitoring ankle bracelet, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.

The escape comes just three weeks before his sentencing.

The federal agency monitoring Francis’ house arrest, Pretrial Services, called the San Diego Police Department on Sunday to verify it, U.S. Marshal Omar Castillo told CNN. When police discovered Francis’ house was empty, they contacted US Marshals, Castillo said.

When a team of U.S. Marshals visited Francis’ home on Sunday, Castillo said, the only thing they found was the anklet he had cut off and left in a portable cooler.

Neighbors told US Marshals they had recently seen several U-Haul trucks at Francis’s, according to Castillo.

“It looks like he’s been planning this for a while,” he told CNN.

The Pacific Southwest Regional Fugitive Task Force, San Diego Division — which is led by the U.S. Marshals — is looking for Francis.

Castillo said the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) is also involved because they worked on the original case.

“We have a few leads that we’re following up,” Castillo said.

San Diego Union-Tribune first reported that Francis escaped from house arrest.

Francis, whose nickname comes from his then 400-pound weight, pleaded guilty to bribery and fraud charges in 2015.

The investigation into the corruption scandal began in 2013 and affected capitals and ports in the Pacific, including Singapore, Tokyo, Bangkok and Manila. During the investigation, several Navy officials were arrested and charged with accepting money, prostitutes and all-expenses-paid trips in return for steering ships to ports where Francis’ contracting company operated, providing services such as fuel and tugs.

CNN contacted the US Attorney’s office and the FBI in San Diego. Contacted by the San Diego Union-Tribune on Monday, Francis’ defense attorney declined to comment.

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