Authorities say that former defense contractor Leonard Glenn Francis was arrested in Venezuela on Wednesday, two weeks after the Malaysian better known as “Fat Leonard” escaped house arrest in San Diego ahead of sentencing for his role in the U.S. Navy’s worst ever corruption scandal.
Carlos Garate Rondon, director general of Interpol Venezuela, said that Fat Leonard had been arrested at Caracas’ international airport while attempting to board a plane to Russia on Tuesday morning. In a post on Instagram, Rondon said that Fat Leonard had entered Venezuela from Mexico, following a stopover in Cuba, and is now in detention while the procedure to extradite him to the United States begins.
The U.S. Marshal Service confirmed Fat Leonard’s arrest to NBC News late on Wednesday, but did not provide any details on how long the extradition process is expected to take.
Francis’ arrest in Venezuela came just days before he was due to be sentenced on September 22 for paying $500,000 in bribes to Navy officers, as part of a corruption scheme prosecutors say earned Francis $35 million from overcharging the Navy for services in port. He had pleaded guilty to the charges in 2015 and served as a cooperating witness, only to flee house arrest in San Diego on September 4.
Following Fat Leonard’s escape, the Marshal Service and the Navy Criminal Investigation Service announced a combined reward of up to $40,000 for any information on Leonard leading to his capture. The reward was issued alongside notices to international law enforcement agencies, including the Interpol Red Notice that ultimately facilitated his arrest in Venezuela.
Earlier this week, author Tom Wright had said that he had acquired proof that Fat Leonard was in Venezuela with his adult son Leonardo. Wright, who recorded a nine-part podcast series where Leonard gave a tell-all of his perspective in the scandal prior to his escape, says that the blackmail material on Navy officers and access to classified material Leonard has gathered probably made him very attractive as a potential asset, should the Kremlin have been successful in getting their hands on him.