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"Fat Leonard" Navy corruption scandal mastermind on the lam after escaping house arrest

Man at center of Navy scandal speaks
Man at the center of Navy corruption scandal speaks 02:07
Leonard Glenn Francis in undated photo @USMSSanDiego

San Diego — The military contractor who pleaded guilty to orchestrating the "Fat Leonard" corruption scandal and was under house arrest in San Diego is now on the run after cutting off his GPS monitoring ankle bracelet over the weekend, federal authorities said.

Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal Omar Castillo told CBS San Diego affiliate KFMB-TV that Leonard Glenn Francis removed the tracker Sunday.

After police officers found Francis' home empty, the San Diego Regional Fugitive Task Force and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service began a high-profile search, the station says, adding that officers did recover the ankle bracelet.

Castillo said neighbors witnessed U-Haul moving trucks coming to and from Francis' home in the days before his escape. KFMB says they failed to report the activity to authorities.

Law enforcement agencies worldwide have been getting alerts to be on the lookout for Francis, along with officials at airports and border checkpoints, KFMB points out. But officials with the U.S. Marshals conceded to the station that Francis could be anywhere at this point.

Francis' defense attorney, Devin Burstein, declined to comment to KFMB.

Francis was arrested in San Diego in 2013 and pleaded guilty in 2015 to offering $500,000 in bribes to Navy officers. In exchange, the officers passed him classified information and even went so far as redirecting military vessels to ports that were lucrative for his Singapore-based ship servicing company.

Prosecutors say Francis and his company overcharged the U.S. military by more than $35 million for its services.

KFMB calls it one of the biggest public corruption scandals in U.S. military history.

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

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