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Fat Leonard left ankle monitor in water cooler before making his escape

Man at center of Navy scandal speaks
Man at the center of Navy corruption scandal speaks 02:07
Undated photo shows Leonard Francis, also known as "Fat Leonard," who was on home confinement, and allegedly cut off his GPS ankle monitor and left his home on the morning of Sept. 4, 2022. U.S. Marshals Service via AP

Investigators have few leads into the disappearance of military contractor Leonard Francis, known as "Fat Leonard," who pleaded guilty to corruption and was days away from being sentenced when he cut off his home GPS ankle monitoring bracelet and fled.

On Sunday, U.S. Marshals received a call reporting a problem with Francis' tracking bracelet. When they arrived at his home, it had been completely cleared out, with the exception of a cooler that held Francis' bracelet inside — covered by water — the Marshals Service said.

After Francis cut off his bracelet and the Marshals took over the case, task force officers were told by neighbors that they had seen several U-Haul trucks in front of Francis' house.

The Marshals surmise that Francis is probably trying to leave the country — the Mexican border is just a 40-minute drive from where he was living. From Mexico, they expect he will try to return to Malaysia or perhaps South Asia. 

In a 2015 plea agreement, Francis identified seven Navy officials who had accepted bribes and acknowledged paying off officials with hundreds of thousands in cash, as well as luxury goods worth millions. He supplied them with prostitutes and Cuban cigars, luxury travel, Spanish suckling pigs and Kobe beef. Officials received spa treatments, top-shelf alcohol, designer handbags, leather goods, designer furniture, watches, fountain pens, ornamental swords and handmade ship models, according to court documents.

In exchange, officers gave him classified information and even redirected military vessels to ports that were lucrative for his Singapore-based ship servicing company. Francis, according to prosecutors, overcharged the U.S. military by $35 million for his company's services.

Over 30 Navy officers and contractors have either been convicted or pleaded guilty to charges related to Francis' services.

Despite his health problems, Francis is still a big man, the Marshals said, so he should be easy to spot. And when he was in U.S. custody, he was in a wheelchair.

Francis was under house arrest since at least 2018 and under the supervision of a federal agency, Pre-Trial Services, that monitors defendants who are out of custody until sentencing. He was set to be sentenced at the end of the month and faced up to 25 years behind bars.  

Pre-Trial Services declined to comment. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) said that it is working jointly with the U.S. Marshals Service, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, and U.S. attorney's office to locate and apprehend Francis. 

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