Saturday, March 2, 2024

Who’s ‘Fats Leonard’ and the way did he find yourself as a part of Venezuelan prisoner swap? : NPR

The U.S. freed a detailed ally of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in trade for the discharge of 10 People imprisoned within the South American nation and the return of fugitive protection contractor Leonard Francis often called “Fats Leonard.” Francis is on the heart of an enormous Pentagon bribery scandal, the Biden administration introduced Wednesday.

U.S. Marshals Service/by way of AP


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U.S. Marshals Service/by way of AP


The U.S. freed a detailed ally of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in trade for the discharge of 10 People imprisoned within the South American nation and the return of fugitive protection contractor Leonard Francis often called “Fats Leonard.” Francis is on the heart of an enormous Pentagon bribery scandal, the Biden administration introduced Wednesday.

U.S. Marshals Service/by way of AP

The infamous and as soon as portly protection contractor often called “Fats Leonard,” who scammed the U.S. Navy out of thousands and thousands of {dollars} for greater than a decade, is being extradited to the U.S. as a part of a prisoner swap take care of Venezuela, the White Home introduced on Wednesday.

Leonard Glenn Francis, now 59, escaped from home arrest in San Diego in September 2022 after chopping off an ankle monitoring bracelet shortly earlier than a sentencing trial for his function behind one of many largest corruption scandals within the nation’s army historical past that ensnared greater than two dozen U.S. Navy officers. However his life on the run was brief lived. Francis was captured weeks later by authorities in Venezuela the place he has remained in custody till now.

“His return to the US will now guarantee that he’s held totally accountable for his crime, in addition to for his try to flee from justice,” a senior Biden administration official mentioned on Wednesday, including that Francis might be despatched to a federal detention facility to await his delayed sentencing.

What did ‘Fats Leonard’ do?

In 2015 Francis pleaded responsible to plying greater than 30 officers, together with greater than two dozen naval officers, with a slew of bribes to achieve profitable contracts for his Singapore-based firm Glenn Protection Marine Asia Ltd.

In response to the Division of Justice, officers have been lavished with a felony potpourri of money, prostitutes, events and luxurious journey and gadgets equivalent to “Cuban cigars, Kobe beef and Spanish suckling pig.”

Francis additionally admitted to overcharging the Pentagon for made up providers. In all, the Division of Justice mentioned he bilked the Navy out of $35 million, main officers to name it “one of the crucial brazen bribery conspiracies within the U.S. Navy’s historical past.”

In trade, officers handed over categorised and different delicate materials to Francis’ firm, which had a contract to resupply and repair Navy ships in Asia.

How did Francis escape?

After pleading responsible to the fraud and bribery expenses in opposition to him, the disgraced Malaysian businessman was permitted to stay underneath home arrest on account of his poor well being on the time. Beneath the plea deal, he may obtain medical take care of superior kidney most cancers so long as he retained round the clock non-public safety and cooperate with the Justice Division. Stars and Stripes reported Francis supplied “incriminating proof in opposition to lots of of Navy personnel.”

However on Sept. 4, 2022, three weeks earlier than his sentencing, Francis snipped off the GPS monitoring system round his ankle that was supposed to make sure he couldn’t flee. Neighbors in Francis’ tony neighborhood later mentioned they’d seen U-Haul autos coming and going from the house within the days main as much as his escape, The Related Press reported. And when officers arrived on the fugitive’s residence, they discovered no safety guards on the residence.

Francis efficiently made his manner throughout the border into Mexico then caught a flight to Cuba. In response to Stars and Stripes, Cuban authorities refused to let him keep within the island nation, so he made his option to Venezuela. Francis then utilized for asylum on the Russian embassy in Caracas, the outlet reported. He had not but obtained a response from Moscow when he was arrested making an attempt to board a flight to Russia on the Caracas airport on Sept. 20, 2022.

With out diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Venezuela, Francis has been caught in limbo because the State Division and United Nations officers moved to safe his launch.

What occurs subsequent?

As of now, there is no such thing as a date set for Francis’ sentencing.

His plea settlement acknowledged he confronted as much as 25 years behind bars, although it was broadly anticipated that might be drastically decreased on account of his cooperation with prosecutors. However no matter leniency he might have earned is probably going non-existent after embarrassing the U.S. authorities along with his bolt for freedom that in flip launched a world manhunt.

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