A Malaysian 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 said Leonard Glenn Francis removed the tracker on 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.
Castillo said neighbors witnessed U-Haul moving trucks coming to and from Francis' home in the days before his escape.
Officers entered the multi-million dollar five bedroom, seven bathroom home only to find the entire place had been emptied apart from the sheared off GPS bracelet he had left behind,the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
Law enforcement agencies will now look for him at international borders and airports with license plate readers looking for theU-Haul trucks - but he may have already crossed the border into Mexico, Castillo acknowledged.
'Fat Leonard', aka Leonard Glenn Francis, the Malaysian businessman who infiltrated the US Navy in Manila and blackmailed officers into giving him favors and shipping routes,is now on the run after cutting off his GPS monitoring ankle bracelet over the weekend,
Francis, 57, was arrested in San Diego in 2013 and pleaded guilty in 2015 to offering $500,000 in bribes to officersafter spending years plying the Navy with gifts, cash, trips and prostitutes' in exchange for favorable contracts and secret information.
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.
He flipped after his arrest and agreed to testify against the Navy as part of a sweeping prosecution by the Department of Justice's that remains ongoing; seven Navy officers are still awaiting trial and Francis is the star witness.
Prosecutors say Francis and his company overcharged the U.S. military by more than $35 million for its services.
Francis is shown with Rear Admiral Bolivar, who was investigated as part of the scandal.
Francis had been on house arrest since at least 2018 and was supposed to be under the supervision of a federal agency that monitors defendants who are out of custody until sentencing around the clock. He was set to be sentenced at the end of September.
Francis was under the supervision of Pretrial Services with security provided by an unnamed private company, with Francis supposedly footing the bill.
Francis´ defense attorney, Devin Burstein, declined to comment to the Union-Tribune on Monday.
The date of his sentencing had been put off for years as he continued to assist prosecutors. He was preparing to appear on thewitness stand in a trial earlier this year to testify against five former naval officers, but he was never called.
Four of the officers were convicted while the jury was deadlocked on a fifth.
'Obviously it's very disappointing,' San Diego attorney Michael Crowley, who defended one of the former officers said to the Tribune upon hearing of Francis' escape.
'He started all this and we wanted him to testify since this was the crux of the government's case. Here, they've let him slip right through their fingers.'
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.
'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.
Leonard Francis, nicknamed 'Fat Leonard', is a 57-year-old Malaysian defense contractor. He was arrested in 2013 and pleaded guilty to a massive bribery scheme in 2015 in what has been described as the biggest corruption plot in modern Naval history
'My wellbeing is more important than anyone else… I am their star witness,' Francis said.
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.
Navy Cmdr. Michael Misiewicz, center, lies flat on his back in a boxing ring during Fight Night at a Manila nightclub in a photograph introduced as part of a federal court exhibit. In a letter to the judge in his case, Misiewicz blamed his behavior on marital troubles and insecurities
Senior Navy officials pictured at a party Francis says he threw for them in his unofficial role
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
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
'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
Navy Rear Admiral Robert Gilbeau (left) was sentenced to 18 months in prison andCommander Michael Misiewicz (right) was sentenced to six years
Captain Jeffrey Breslau (left) was sentenced to six months and Rear Admiral Bruce Loveless (right) was arrested but he retired from the Navy