Investigators have few leads forknown as ‘Fat Leonard’, who pleaded guilty to bribery and was days away from sentencing when he cut off his ankle monitoring GPS bracelet and fled.
On Sunday, US Marshals received a call reporting a problem with Francis’ tracking bracelet. When they arrived at his home, it had been completely emptied, except for a cooler which contained Francis’ bracelet inside – covered in water – the Marshals Service said.
After Francis cut off his bracelet and the Marshals took over the case, neighbors told task force officers they saw several U-Haul trucks in front of Francis’ home.
Marshals assume Francis is probably trying to leave the country – the Mexican border is just a 40-minute drive from where he used to live. From Mexico, they expect him to try to return to Malaysia or possibly South Asia.
In a, Francis identified seven Navy officials who had taken bribes and admitted paying officials hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, as well as luxuries worth millions. He provided them with prostitutes and Cuban cigars, luxury trips, Spanish suckling pigs and Kobe beef. Officials received spa treatments, premium liquor, designer handbags, leather goods, designer furniture, watches, fountain pens, ornamental swords and model ships made by hand, according to court documents.
In return, officers gave him classified information and even redirected military vessels to lucrative ports for his Singapore-based ship maintenance company. Francis, prosecutors say, overcharged the U.S. military $35 million for his company’s services.
More than 30 Navy officers and contractors have been convicted or pleaded guilty to charges related to Francis’ services.
Despite his health issues, Francis is still a big man, the marshals said, so he should be easy to spot. And when he was detained in the United States, he was in a wheelchair.
Francis had been under house arrest since at least 2018 and under the supervision of a federal agency, Pre-Trial Services, which monitors defendants who are not in custody until sentencing. He was due to be sentenced at the end of the month and faced up to 25 years in prison.
Pre-trial services declined to comment. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) said it was working in conjunction with the US Marshals Service, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the US Attorney’s Office to locate and apprehend Francis.