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‘Fat Leonard' Case: Advocates worry latest twist will dampen change in the Navy

U.S. Marshal’s are looking for the man dubbed "Fat Leonard." The Malaysian businessman Leonard Glenn Francis pleaded guilty to defrauding the Navy in 2015. He was at the heart of a corruption probe that snared nearly 30 naval officials. Francis was awaiting sentencing.

Advocates worry the latest twist will make it harder for the Navy to absorb the lessons.

U.S. Marshals were notified Sunday that he had cut off his ankle monitor, said Omar Castillo, deputy supervisor for the U.S. Marshal’s southern California district.

“We went to the house that afternoon, knocked on the door, no answer,” Castillo said. “Looking through the windows, it looked pretty vacant. Found an unlocked door, and my task force officers went in.”

Beyond his role as a contractor for the Navy, Leonard has few ties to the United States. His business, Glenn Marine Defense Asia, was based in Singapore. In San Diego, he lived with three of his children, who are Filipino. Neighbors told the Marshals they saw U-Haul trucks parked outside his house.

“Finding out about the U-Haul trucks and knowing that the house is empty — he's had some time to plan this out,” Castillo said. “So we are definitely leaning toward him possibly being on the international side. And we're basically pursuing some of those leads.”

Francis has been in home confinement after a stint in the hospital. His sentencing had been delayed for years as the federal investigation dragged on.

Dan Grazier with the Center for Public Integrity says this twist may make it less likely that the Navy will make long term changes in reaction to the largest corruption scandal in Navy history.

“This last dramatic turn in the case is an opportunity to close the book on it. And so there's already a lack of discussion about this case in official Washington as it is,” Grazier said.

Earlier this year, four out of five former Navy officers were found guilty in federal court. The remaining defendants in the case are scheduled to be sentenced in the coming weeks.

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