US Navy scammer arrested in Venezuela over scandal in Asia

An alleged United States Navy military contractor has been arrested in Venezuela after fleeing house arrest in the US. The man fled his home country just weeks before being sentenced for his role in a corruption scandal in Thailand and other parts of Asia. The man, Leonard Gleen Francis, known as “Fat Leonard,” had fled from his California home and entered Venezuela from Mexico after a stopover in Cuba. He reportedly had plans to flee to Russia but was arrested before his plans materialised.

US Marshals Service says Interpol issued a notice for his arrest, but he removed his GPS tracker on September 4 at his home in San Diego. Francis was accused of using prostitutes, plane tickets and other bribes to hook US offers into a scheme that saw the Pentagon being billed for their exploits. The overbilled amount is reportedly in excess of millions of dollars. Francis was a Malaysian businessman and used his influence to extort at least US$10 million from the Pentagon by submitting inflated bills over the course of just one year. The inflated bills were said to be from servicing US Navy ships at Laem Chabang port in Chon Buri.

A Thai woman was also accused of participating in the scam and is currently facing charges in a US court. Francis was originally arrested back in 2013, pleading guilty to offering US$500,000 in bribes to Navy officers. In return, those officers shared classified information with him and rerouted military vessels to ports where he had connections. Those accomplices would then inflate the bills for the Pentagon to benefit Francis’ Singapore-based ship servicing company.

Francis was then brought back to the US where he spent nine years working with US authorities to nab other Navy officers, who allegedly colluded with him, in the scandal.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Ann Carter

Ann Carter is an award-winning journalist from the United States with over 12 years experience in print and broadcast news. Her work has been featured in America, China and Thailand as she has worked internationally at major news stations as a writer and producer. Carter graduated from the Walter Williams Missouri School of Journalism in the USA.