US Marshals offer $56,000 reward for info on Malaysian fugitive Fat Leonard

Penang-born Leonard had given authorities the slip days before he was due to be sentenced by cutting off his ankle monitor. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

PETALING JAYA - The United States' San Diego Fugitive Task Force is on the hunt for Malaysian fugitive Leonard Francis, better known as "Fat Leonard" who cut off his GPS bracelet and fled home arrest in San Diego.

A tweet from the United States Marshals Service said it is offering a US$40,000 (S$56,000) reward for information leading to the arrest of Leonard.

Penang-born Francis, who was under house arrest in San Diego, California, had given authorities the slip days before he was due to be sentenced by cutting off his ankle monitor.

Unknown to federal monitors, he had been moving belongings out of the property, where he lived with his mother and children, according to court documents, for several days as neighbours told federal authorities they saw several U-Haul trucks "coming in and out of the residence", a US Marshal for the San Diego Service said.

He had been allowed to stay under house arrest since 2018 after taking a plea deal to cooperate with the prosecution, whom he reportedly helped secure convictions of at least 29 Navy officers and defence contractors in one of the US military's largest graft scandals.

Francis was also receiving medical treatment for renal cancer among other health issues while under home detention in Carmel Valley.

The 58-year-old defence contractor was arrested in September 2013 on fraud and bribery charges after federal investigators lured him to San Diego on the pretext of a business meeting with Navy officials.

He pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiring to defraud the US in January 2015, including offering prostitution services, luxury hotel stays, cigars, gourmet meals and more than US$500,000 in bribes to Navy officials among others to help his Singapore-based ship servicing company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia, overbill the US Navy.

He was set to be sentenced on Sept 22.

Francis was the former owner of multinational firm GDMA, based in 15D Pandan Road in Singapore.

GDMA specialises in "husbanding" services, which involves procuring services needed by ships when they port - from tugboats to food and fuel, and even trash removal. The firm had served the US Navy for more than 25 years until the bribery charges.

Francis has also admitted to using his US Navy contacts, including ship captains, to obtain classified information and to defraud the US Navy of tens of millions of dollars by steering ships to specific ports in the Pacific and falsifying service charges.

By diverting US aircraft carriers and ships from Singapore to ports like Phuket and Klang, where checks were less stringent, it would be easier to fake invoices. GDMA overcharged the US Navy by US$2.3 million in 2011 and 2012, according to court documents.

If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in jail and he agreed to forfeit US$35 million in personal assets, an amount he admitted to overcharging the US navy.


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