Crooked Malaysian contractor ‘Fat Leonard’ arrested in Venezuela

Crooked Malaysian contractor ‘Fat Leonard’ arrested in Venezuela after going on the run for bribing US admirals with prostitutes in exchange for secret shipping routes

  • Fat Leonard, aka Leonard Francis, was arrested in Venezuela after fleeing before his sentencing
  • Francis came to Venezuela from Mexico and was planning to head to Russia, authorities said
  • The arrest came on the eve of his scheduled sentencing in a federal court in California for a bribery scheme
  • Francis was a defense contractor who infiltrated Navy ships in Manila, supplied the officers with riches and prostitutes, then asked them for favors
  • For years Francis bribed ‘scores’ of Navy officers throughout the ranks with prostitutes and luxury goods worth millions
  • Francis was under home arrest in San Diego when he cut off his GPS ankle bracelet and escaped on September 4

A Malaysian defense contractor nicknamed ‘Fat Leonard’ who orchestrated one of the largest bribery scandals in U.S. military history has been arrested in Venezuela after fleeing before his sentencing, authorities said Wednesday.

The international manhunt for Leonard Glenn Francis ended with his arrest by Venezuelan authorities Tuesday morning at the Caracas airport as he was about to board an airplane for another country, the U.S. Marshals Service said.

Interpol Venezuela Director General Carlos Garate Rondon said in a statement posted on Instagram that Francis came to Venezuela from Mexico. Rondon said he was headed to Russia.

The arrest came on the eve of his scheduled sentencing in a federal court in California for a bribery scheme that lasted more than a decade and involved dozens of U.S. Navy officers.

There was no immediate word on when he might be extradited to the United States.

Francis was under home arrest in San Diego when he cut off his GPS ankle bracelet and escaped on Sept. 4. Ten U.S. agencies searched for Francis and authorities issued a $40,000 reward for his arrest.

Leonard Francis, nicknamed 'Fat Leonard', is a 57-year-old Malaysian defense contractor that was recently arrested in Venezuela after being on the run

Leonard Francis, nicknamed ‘Fat Leonard’, is a 57-year-old Malaysian defense contractor that was recently arrested in Venezuela after being on the run

This undated photo provided by the U.S. Marshals Service shows Leonard Francis

This undated photo provided by the U.S. Marshals Service shows Leonard Francis

U.S. authorities also issued a red notice, which asks law enforcement worldwide to provisionally arrest someone with the possibility of extradition. Malaysia and Singapore both have extradition agreements with the United States.

Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 to offering prostitution services, luxury hotels, cigars, gourmet meals and more than $500,000 in bribes to Navy officials and others to help his Singapore-based ship servicing company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd. or GDMA. 

Prosecutors said the company overcharged the Navy by at least $35 million for servicing ships, many of which were routed to ports he controlled in the Pacific.

Francis had been allowed to remain in home confinement to receive medical care while he cooperated with the prosecution. With his help, prosecutors secured convictions of 33 of 34 defendants, including more than two dozen Navy officers.

The date of his sentencing had been put off for years as he continued to assist prosecutors. He was preparing to appear on the witness stand in a trial earlier this year to testify against five former naval officers, but he was never called.

Last year, he boasted in a podcast about plying admirals with booze and prostitutes, and the sweet informant deal he struck with the US government. 

Francis is shown with Rear Admiral Bolivar, who was investigated as part of the scandal.

Francis is shown with Rear Admiral Bolivar, who was investigated as part of the scandal.  

Senior Navy officials pictured at a party Francis says he threw for them in his unofficial role

Senior Navy officials pictured at a party Francis says he threw for them in his unofficial role

‘Everybody was in my pocket. I had them rolling around in my palm. I had the Navy by their balls. I turned my torpedo, my guns against them, because they betrayed me,’ Francis says in one episode of a nine-part series.  

He also revealed that the government had arranged for visas for his whole family, saying: ‘Everybody came legally. Uncle Sam knows, everybody knows what I’m doing. My children are my children. 

In one episode of the podcast, he spoke proudly about going after Michael Misiewicz, a commander who he supplied with prostitutes in Tokyo in exchange for secret shipping routes to Australia. 

‘Misciewicz had value, you know, he was like the number two guy in the scheduling department. 

‘If you look at him, he’s actually a really nice guy, very gentle personality, friendly, great dad to his kids, womanizer…’ Francis said, adding that his number two – New Yorker Edmond Aruffo – ’embedded’ him.

‘They wanted to have the good life that they could not have. They wanted the fine dining, the fine gifts, hotel rooms, sedans, luxury cars, watches, handbags, fancy meals, alcohol, cigars,’ he said.

Francis had infiltrated Misiewicz’s family and friends while he was working on the USS Blue Ridge out of Manila in 2011. 

He gave him and his family tickets to the Lion King in Tokyo, bought his wife Marcy a Gucci handbag when she became suspicious of him, and arranged for Michael to sleep with prostitutes in Tokyo on a regular basis. 

The scheme came crashing down in 2013 after Marcy Misiewicz, Michael’s wife, suspected he was cheating on her and confronted him. He struck her and she reported it to the NCIS, which started filtering through Michael’s emails. 

Among them were exchanges with Francis, where Michael had supplied secret shipping routes to Australia. 

Francis, who had a spy in the NCIS, found out and tried to placate her but he was eventually arrested, along with Misiewicz, who was sentenced to seven years in prison. 

Francis also suggested that some of the most senior admirals he corrupted were being protected by the Navy, a claim that is bolstered by the fact that some were disciplined in military courts, whereas others were pursued by the Department of Justice.  

Leonard Glenn Francis aka Fat Leonard even purchased a decommissioned British warship, renamed it the Glenn Braveheart (pictured), and occasionally turned it into a giant party boat

Leonard Glenn Francis aka Fat Leonard even purchased a decommissioned British warship, renamed it the Glenn Braveheart (pictured), and occasionally turned it into a giant party boat

Fat Leonard, aka Leonard Glenn Francis, on his warship - the USS Braveheart - which he bought. He is obsessed with American culture and speaks with an American accent, despite never having lived in the US at the time

Fat Leonard, aka Leonard Glenn Francis, on his warship – the USS Braveheart – which he bought. He is obsessed with American culture and speaks with an American accent, despite never having lived in the US at the time

The Braveheart, Fat Leonard's warship, which he bought in 2003, was used as a 'floating brothel', according to some of those interviewed as part of the investigation

The Braveheart, Fat Leonard’s warship, which he bought in 2003, was used as a ‘floating brothel’, according to some of those interviewed as part of the investigation 

‘Some of the more senior admirals got handled by the Navy because then they can be brushed under the carpet, it’s little more than a slap on the wrist, they call it ‘different spanks for different ranks’. 

‘If you’re an admiral you don’t get punished to the same degree as if you’re junior,’ Wright said. 

The case has resulted in federal criminal charges against 34 Navy officials, defense contractors, including Francis, and the Glenn Defense Marine Asia corporation. 

So far, 26 of those have pleaded guilty and many have been sentenced to several years in prison.

U.S. Navy Capt. Daniel Dusek, center, handed over classified ship schedules and steered aircraft carriers to revenue ports controlled by Glenn Defense in return for prostitutes, alcohol and stays at luxury hotels

U.S. Navy Capt. Daniel Dusek, center, handed over classified ship schedules and steered aircraft carriers to revenue ports controlled by Glenn Defense in return for prostitutes, alcohol and stays at luxury hotels

Navy Rear Admiral Robert Gilbeau

Commander Michael Misiewicz

Navy Rear Admiral Robert Gilbeau (left) was sentenced to 18 months in prison and Commander Michael Misiewicz (right) was sentenced to six years

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