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US fugitive known as ‘Fat Leonard’ arrested in Venezuela after weeks on the run

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A military contractor known as “Fat Leonard,” who cut off his anklet and fled after pleading guilty in a major naval corruption scandal, was detained in Venezuela, authorities said on Wednesday.

Leonard Glenn Francis, who was under house arrest in San Diego and weeks away from sentencing, removed his GPS tracker on Sept. 4, according to the US Marshals Service. Francis had pleaded guilty in 2015 to bribing naval officials in a $35 million scandal.

Francis was detained by Venezuelan authorities, who were informed that he was on the run by Interpol while trying to board a plane bound for another country, a spokesman for the marshals said.

Carlos Garate Rondon, director general of Interpol Venezuela, said in a statement that Francis had entered the country from Mexico with a stopover in Cuba. His final destination was Russia, Rondon said.

He was detained at Simón Bolívar International Airport and will remain in Venezuelan custody while US marshals and other federal authorities work out details about his extradition to the US.

Francis was arrested in 2013. He pleaded guilty to offering $500,000 in bribes to naval officers, who in return shared classified information with him and forwarded military ships to ports that would be beneficial to his Singapore-based ship service company.

Prosecutors say Francis and his company overcharged the US military by more than $35 million.

He had been under house arrest since at least 2018.

Before he disappeared, US Pretrial Services, the federal agency responsible for overseeing his house arrest, received a warning that his GPS ankle monitor had been tampered with. Pretrial Services has notified the Marshals Service of the warning, the agency said.

Members of the San Diego Fugitive Task Force went to Francis’ residence and, after introducing themselves, entered his home through an unlocked door, the Marshals Service said. Officers were unable to locate Francis, but they found his GPS ankle monitor, which had been cut off, the marshals said.

Francis’ neighbors told marshals that several U-Haul trucks had been in and out of the house all week, Omar Castillo, a deputy deputy US marshal, said. The San Diego Union Tribune reported.

It seemed obvious Francis had been planning his escape for a while, Castillo said.

Tim Stelloh contributed.

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