SAN DIEGO — After two weeks on the run, the man known as "Fat Leonard" was arrested in Venezuela on Sept. 20, U.S. Marshals Service confirmed to CBS 8.
Leonard Francis, the defense contractor behind a bribery scheme that bilked the U.S. government out of tens of millions of dollars, escaped his house arrest on Sunday, Sept. 4 in San Diego.
After cutting off an ankle monitor and slipping away from house arrest in San Diego on Sept. 4, U.S. and Venezuelan officials say Leonard Glenn Francis went across the border into Mexico, then traveled to Cuba and Venezuela, where he was arrested Tuesday at Simón Bolívar International Airport outside Caracas.
Francis had been under the supervision of a federal agency called Pretrial Services, which asked San Diego police to do a welfare check on Sept. 4, after they received notification that the GPS device had been tampered with.
Police arrived to an empty house in the Torrey Highlands community, where they recovered the ankle bracelet.
"We were tracking him since he left San Diego. I can tell you he did go to Mexico. I can tell you that he did board a flight within Mexico. We’ve been doing this for a long time. You can try to go to other countries but we can still find you and bring you back to justice," said Omar Castillo, a supervisory deputy U.S. Marshal in San Diego.
Officials with the U.S. Marshals said that it is clear that Francis, who faces 25 years behind bars, had been planning this move. Neighbors told police that they had noticed U-hauls going in and out of Francis' home in San Diego in the days leading up to his escape but failed to report it.
Francis was planning to travel to Russia, according to Interpol Venezuela Director General Carlos Garate Rondon, who disclosed the arrest in a statement posted Wednesday on Instagram. He said Francis would be handed over to the country’s judicial authorities to begin extradition proceedings.
Greg Rinckey, a former Army lawyer who is now in private practice, said he believes Francis was “trying to play the angle of using some countries to get outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. Marshals Service.”
“It looks like they caught him just in time,” Rinckey said. “If he made it to Russia, I don’t believe the Russians would have turned him over to us.”
Frances was scheduled to be sentenced on September 22 when he escaped. He remains in the custody of Venezuelan authorities, pending extradition.
"Knowing that right now he’s being detained, we’re glad it’s happening. It will be up to the other agencies to get him back. It will be up to the U.S. Attorney’s office and the Department of State dealing with the Venezuelan government," said Castillo.
The U.S. government faces an uphill challenge returning the fugitive back to American soil. The U.S. government doesn’t recognize Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government, has no embassy in the country and has imposed crushing sanctions on the country that has further embittered relations. Law enforcement cooperation between the two countries is rare, according to the Associated Press.
Interpol Venezuela posted the following photo and (translated) statement on its Instagram page:
"Officials assigned to the Directorate of Investigations of the OCN interpol Caracas, carried out the capture of the fugitive identified as Francis Leonard Glenn of Malaysian nationality date of birth 10/22/1964 who presented red notification No. A-7578/9-2022 at the request of the OCN Washington for the crime of bribery and corruption. Francis Leonard Glenn had entered the country from Mexico with a stopover in Cuba, to then continue with his final destination to the federative republic of Russia, the fugitive was arrested at the Simón Bolívar de Maiquetía international airport when he was about to leave the country. The detainee will be handed over to our judicial authorities in order to initiate extradition procedures."
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