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“Fat Leonard” Loses Lawyer in Navy Bribery Scandal During First Court Appearance Since House Arrest Escape

Malaysian Businessman, Convicted Navy Briber, Faces Legal Turmoil as Sentencing Approaches

In a dramatic turn of events, Leonard Glenn “Fat Leonard” Francis, the Malaysian businessman at the center of a U.S. Navy bribery scandal, faced legal setbacks during his recent court appearance in San Diego. The court session marked his first since being extradited back to the U.S. following an escape from house arrest in 2022 and subsequent capture in Venezuela.

"Fat Leonard" Loses Lawyer in Navy Bribery Scandal During First Court Appearance Since House Arrest Escape
“Fat Leonard” Loses Lawyer in Navy Bribery Scandal During First Court Appearance Since House Arrest Escape

Draped in a disheveled khaki jumpsuit and concealed behind a white face mask, Francis made a subdued appearance during the brief status conference. The courtroom, too, fell into a hushed silence as his attorney requested to withdraw from representing him as the sentencing process unfolds.

Francis, owner of a ship-serving company and military contractor, had previously pleaded guilty in 2015 to bribery and wire fraud charges. The charges stemmed from a far-reaching conspiracy involving payments to U.S. Navy officials in the Seventh Fleet, offering cash, luxurious dinners, travel, and even sex workers in exchange for classified Navy ship schedules.

The schedules provided Francis with a strategic advantage, allowing him to influence Navy ship husbandry contracts. Subsequently, he exploited the situation by overcharging the government more than $35 million for services such as water, food, trash, and waste removal.

In September 2022, just weeks before his scheduled sentencing, Francis managed to escape house arrest, only to be arrested by Venezuelan police outside Caracas as he attempted to board a flight, presumably bound for Russia.

The Biden administration later announced a controversial deal involving the release of Francis in exchange for the freedom of Alex Saab, an ally of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, and 10 imprisoned Americans.

During the recent court hearing, Jeremy Warren, Francis’ defense attorney, expressed his intent to withdraw from the case without specifying the reasons. He emphasized the need for Francis to have legal representation fully capable of advocating for him.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Sheppard opposed Warren’s withdrawal, citing potential delays in the already protracted legal proceedings. Sheppard argued that the case had endured for years, and any further delay would be detrimental.

Notably, prosecutors disclosed that the federal government is contemplating additional charges against Francis, including indirect contempt, post his sentencing in the ongoing case.

The legal saga surrounding “Fat Leonard” continues, with uncertainties looming over the potential developments and the future of those involved in the Navy bribery scandal.

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