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How Did 'Fat Leonard' Escape Home Confinement, Head To Venezuela?

Leonard Glenn Francis, the Malaysian defense contractor who admitted bribing dozens of Navy officers as part of a $35 million fraud scheme, was supposed to remain in home confinement under tight, 24-7 security while he provided evidence against corrupt Navy personnel. Only approved visitors could enter the home. An ankle monitor would alert authorities should he slip away, reports the Washington Post. “He’s not going anywhere,” defense attorney Devin Burstein assured a judge in 2020. The criminal mastermind known as “Fat Leonard” because of his 6-2, 350-pound frame eventually did go somewhere, cutting off his ankle monitor on Labor Day weekend and fleeing the San Diego mansion where he had been living with private security staff that he paid for under a court-approved deal meant to prevent his escape.

He was captured after 16 days on the run, caught Tuesday at an airport in Venezuela from which he was headed to Russia, said Interpol. Interpol’s Venezuela said the 57-year-old Francis would be handed over to judicial authorities to begin the paperwork for extradition. His flight triggered new calls from attorneys representing Navy officers in related cases for more details about the health issues that caused Francis to be released from prison on a medical furlough that the court repeatedly extended without objection from prosecutors. Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 and became a cooperating witness. He spent a couple of years in prison before a diagnosis of kidney cancer led to his initial furlough in 2018 for medical treatment, and then multiple extensions, court files show. With Francis’s help, prosecutors secured convictions of 33 of 34 defendants. Francis increasingly took advantage of his confinement rules. He hired servants to meet his family’s every need and undermined the court’s security requirements aimed at keeping him from fleeing by stationing his personal security guards in windowless garages, with no night patrols and no visitor’s logs.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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