Convicted Military Contractor ‘Fat Leonard’ Returning to US in Prisoner Swap

Convicted Military Contractor ‘Fat Leonard’ Returning to US in Prisoner Swap

Leonard Francis. (U.S. Marshals Service via AP)

City News Service

City News Service

12/21/2023

Updated: 1/12/2024

SAN DIEGO—Fugitive military contractor Leonard Glenn “Fat Leonard” Francis—who escaped from San Diego house arrest last year after admitting he bribed Navy officials in a wide-ranging corruption scheme—is expected to appear in a Florida federal courtroom Dec. 21 as he is returned to the U.S. from Venezuela as part of a sweeping prisoner exchange.
President Joe Biden said Wednesday that a total of 10 Americans who had been detained in Venezuela were being released as part of the deal, including six “wrongfully detained Americans.”
According to the U.S. Marshals Service, Mr. Francis cut off a GPS monitor he was required to wear and disappeared from San Diego in September 2022.
He pleaded guilty in 2015 to bribing Navy officers with fancy hotel stays, meals, and prostitutes in exchange for classified information, persuading them to direct aircraft carriers to ports he controlled so they could be resupplied by his Singapore-based company. He also admitted overcharging the U.S. military in an amount exceeding $35 million.
Mr. Francis was awaiting sentencing when he disappeared. He was subsequently arrested at Simon Bolivar International Airport and had been detained in Venezuela ever since.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Francis is expected to appear in a Florida federal courtroom Thursday, when prosecutors will argue for his removal to San Diego.
San Diego U.S. Attorney Tara McGrath said in a statement, “Now that Mr. Francis is back in U.S. custody, we look forward to his return to the Southern District of California where he will be held accountable for his crimes.”
The prosecutions against Mr. Francis and numerous Navy officers he allegedly bribed resulted in guilty pleas from dozens of defendants and a jury trial that resulted in four officers being convicted.
However, allegations of prosecutorial misconduct surfaced, leading to the dismissal of the four officers’ convictions and new guilty pleas to misdemeanor counts that resulted in no prison time. The government has since moved to dismiss the guilty plea of another Navy officer who testified at the trial and reduce the charges against four other officers who pleaded guilty.
Besides Mr. Francis, a Los Angeles County public defender was among those released, the White House said.
“These individuals have lost far too much precious time with their loved ones, and their families have suffered every day in their absence,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. “I am grateful that their ordeal is finally over, and that these families are being made whole once more.”
The U.S. also agreed to release Alex Saab, a close ally of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Saab had been awaiting trial on money laundering charges.
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