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Officials: Navy bribery case fugitive tried to get to Russia

September 23, 2022

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SAN DIEGO (AP) — Since escaping two weeks ago, officials say the fugitive Malaysian defense contractor nicknamed “Fat Leonard” — who orchestrated one of the U.S. Navy’s largest bribery scandals — zipped between countries to find a place where he could become virtually untouchable for American authorities.

It almost worked.

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 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.”

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