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Experts weigh in on escape of 'Fat Leonard'

Posted at 6:25 AM, Sep 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-07 09:44:38-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — The plot continues to thicken in the "Fat Leonard" case.

Less than three weeks before former military contractor Leonard Glenn Francis was set to be sentenced for the biggest bribery scandal in U.S. Navy history, authorities said he escaped house arrest.

The man known as "Fat Leonard" pleaded guilty in 2015 to bribing Navy officers with cash and prostitutes in exchange for classified information, persuading them to direct aircraft carriers to ports he controlled so they could be resupplied by his Singapore-based company. He also admitted overcharging the U.S. military in an amount exceeding $35 million.

Residents said they had no idea Fat Leonard lived in a house in their neighborhood because they never saw him come out.

“I’d ask him his side of the story. Why he did it," said podcaster Tom Wright.

Wright created the Fat Leonard podcast and is the only media outlet to interview the man behind scandal.

He said he thinks his podcast might have been a factor in Fat Leonard's escape. Wright believed Leonard feared the interview would lead to a longer sentence.

“Because he was in detention awaiting sentencing and we had smuggled him a microphone. He was so worried that he had been so honest in the podcast saying it was the 'ultimate cover-up in the Navy' and 'senior admirals that I bribed didn’t get sanctioned, I’m the scapegoat,' and all of that was going to lead to him having a bigger sentence," said Wright.

Four out of five of the Navy officers accused of accepting Fat Leonard's bribes were convicted at the end of June.

“Bro, your days are numbered,” said Jesse Nunez, a local bail enforcement officer.

Nunez and fellow bail enforcement officer Bianca Garcia told ABC 10News that authorities were likely pinged as soon as they learned Leonard's ankle bracelet was tampered with.

“In his case, it sounds like he had cut his device off, which had triggered an alarm; that alarm went to a monitoring center, which then notified the supervising agency," said Nunez.

They said what’s unusual about the escape is that he didn’t leave everything behind when he cut his ankle bracelet off and fled.

“The fact that he got U-Hauls. He’s going to develop a paper trail on where he went to and where those trucks went to," said Nunez.

As for where Fat Leonard could be, there are several possibilities.

“People are saying, and I have no prior information, but maybe he’s gone over the border from San Diego into Mexico. He was in shipping for 14 years. He has a lot of contacts in that world — perhaps he bribed his way onto a ship," said Wright.

The U.S. Marshals Service told ABC 10News that leads are already pouring into its national office.

City News Service contributed to this report