Fugitive in massive Navy bribery case caught in Venezuela

FILE - This undated photo provided by the U.S. Marshals Service shows Leonard Francis. The Malaysian defense contractor nicknamed “Fat Leonard," who orchestrated one of the largest bribery scandals in U.S. military history, has been arrested in Venezuela after fleeing before his sentencing, authorities said Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022. (Courtesy of U.S. Marshals Service via AP, File)

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A Malaysian defense contractor nicknamed “Fat Leonard" who orchestrated one of the largest bribery scandals in U.S. military history has been arrested in Venezuela after fleeing before his sentencing, authorities said Wednesday.

The international manhunt for Leonard Glenn Francis ended with his arrest by Venezuelan authorities Tuesday morning at the Caracas airport as he was about to board an airplane for another country, the U.S. Marshals Service said.

Francis had traveled to Venezuela from Mexico with a stopover in Cuba, Interpol Venezuela Director General Carlos Garate Rondon said in a statement posted on Instagram. Francis was headed to Russia and was arrested at the main international airport in Caracas, the agency said.

The arrest came on the eve of his scheduled sentencing in a federal court in California for a bribery scheme that lasted more than a decade and involved dozens of U.S.