US Marshals Services face questions after ‘Fat Leonard’ flees house arrest | Malaysia

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The US Marshals Service and other law enforcement are facing questions about their jurisdiction after the central figure in the biggest scandal in US naval history was able to not only escape house arrest, but also rent vans to load their belongings.

When marshals arrived at Leonard Francis’ home in San Diego on Sunday, they found he had cut off his GPS ankle strap and fled, two weeks before his sentencing hearing. The fate of the Malaysian entrepreneur’s three sons, who lived with him, was unclear.

Alerts were issued at ports, airports and the nearby southern border with Mexico, but law enforcement officials admitted that Francis may have already fled the country.

The Regional Fugitives Task Force and the Navy Criminal Investigative Service were both reportedly assisting in the manhunt.

After being arrested in 2013 in a San Diego hotel room as part of a federal undercover operation, Francis pleaded guilty to an extensive bribery scheme, in which Navy officers received food, drink and paid sex, and in return ensured that US Navy ships the size of aircraft carriers were diverted to his Singapore-based company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia, for maintenance .

The case, in which the Navy was overcharged by about $35 million, is known as the “Fat Leonard” scandal, a reference to Francis’ height.

The San Diego office of the US Marshals Service has set up a Wanted notice on Twitter tuesday. “The San Diego Fugitive Task Force is looking for Leonard Francis, aka ‘Fat Leonard.’ left his home,” the notice read.

Francis’ attorney, Devin Burstein, declined to comment. Francis had been a cooperating witness for federal prosecutors in their cases against senior naval officers. His own sentencing hearing had been repeatedly postponed but was set for September 22.

Francis’ house arrest arrangements were highly unusual, after he was released from prison in 2018 to undergo treatment for cancer. He was being watched by a private security company, paid for by Francis himself, who on a previous occasion had left the house unsecured when a guard went to lunch.

In the days leading up to his disappearance, neighbors had seen U-Haul rental trucks coming and going from Francis’ home, Supervising U.S. Deputy Marshal Omar Castillo said.

“He was planning this for sure,” Castillo told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

In December 2020, a federal district court judge in San Diego ordered a review of the security arrangements at Francis’ home after a court officer conducted a street check and found no guards there for more than two o’clock. The guard later said he had gone on a lunch break.

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