Antelope Valley Press

‘Fat Leonard’ seeks new attorneys; sentencing near


SAN DIEGO (AP) — Defense contractor Leonard “Fat Leonard” Francis, who fled to South America weeks before he was scheduled to be sentenced in one of the biggest bribery schemes in US military history, said Thursday that he wants new attorneys now that he is back in US custody after a Venezuelan prisoner swap.

An enigmatic figure who was 6-foot-3 and weighed 350 pounds at one time, Francis was visibly thinner at the hearing in US District Court. He told the judge he has agreed to end his relationsh­ip with Warren & Burstein, the law firm that has represente­d him during much of the decadelong salacious saga involving dozens of American Navy officers.

The change was initially requested by the firm, which made the decision with a “heavy heart,” attorney Jeremey Warren said. “We have a loyalty to our clients. We don’t like to step away.”

Assistant US Attorney Fred Sheppard objected to the change, saying it would set back Francis’ sentencing yet again because it would take time for a new attorney to get up to speed.

Sheppard said the prosecutio­n also planned to file new charges against Francis, given his daring escape in 2022, when he fled house arrest in San Diego for South America. But that won’t happen until after Francis is sentenced.

US District Judge Sammartino acknowledg­ed the potential for delay but said that it would be minor given the long history of the case.

Francis, a Malaysia national who owned and operated his family’s ship servicing business, Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd., was arrested in 2013 in a sting operation in San Diego. GDMA supplied food, water and fuel to US Navy vessels.

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