Despite ‘clean bill of health’ for some medical issues, ‘Fat Leonard’ stayed out of jail
In late 2020, Leonard Francis was given a “clean monthly bill of health” by a medical professional who had been treating the notorious Malaysian protection contractor for extra than two decades, under an uncommon health-related furlough that experienced kept him out of jail to get cure.
Regardless of that pronouncement in November 2020, Francis — the mastermind of a big corruption scandal that rocked the U.S. Navy and defrauded taxpayers out of tens of millions of bucks — ongoing to steer clear of federal lock-up, living at times palatially less than residence arrest with his have compensated protection right until Sept. 4.
This tale is for subscribers
We supply subscribers distinctive access to our greatest journalism.
Thank you for your help.
Which is when the 6-foot, 2-inch Francis, nicknamed “Fat Leonard” for his 300-furthermore pound girth, sliced off a GPS ankle bracelet he had worn because 2018, and went on the run.
Two weeks right after the breathtaking escape, the whereabouts of Francis continue to be unknown. Federal authorities feel he slipped throughout the U.S-Mexico border and have provided a $40,000 reward for his arrest.
Now, the background of his uncommon healthcare furlough has turn into a lot more urgent, not only in gentle of his escape, but also in the aftermath of a trial of four Navy officers not too long ago convicted of accepting bribes.
Attorneys for the 4, who have been convicted at a trial that finished in June, filed a motion on Friday demanding all facts about his healthcare release. They had sought it for yrs just before demo but were frequently rebuffed. They ultimately received redacted documents just weeks before trial.
The attorneys contend the lead prosecutor on the circumstance, Assistant U.S. Legal professional Mark Pletcher, ongoing to guidance keeping Francis outside the jail walls for years — even however Francis was a wealthy man with intercontinental ties and commitment to flee. He had pleaded responsible in 2015 to bribery and other charges.
“This is a foreign countrywide with no ties to the United States, who has pleaded guilty to many felonies, who has contacts all about the earth,” explained Joseph Mancano, the lawyer for convicted previous Capt. David Newland. “And they permit him dwell under people ailments?”
Specifics behind the healthcare furlough are applicable to Francis’ reliability and “the government’s motivation in endorsing Mr. Francis’s unorthodox furlough and the ‘quid professional quo’ condition it created making it possible for Mr. Francis is abscond,” they wrote.
Considering the fact that 2018, Francis had been on a clinical furlough due to the fact of what appears to be a constellation of professional medical challenges that were beyond the means of the pretrial detention method to handle, in accordance to courtroom data.
The circumstances of that release essential him to have on a GPS ankle bracelet, have a 24-hour protection workforce paid out for by Francis, and adhere to demanding limits on his actions outside of the personal households he was living in and presumably leasing.
At the time of his escape Francis was living in a multi-million dollar home in a gated neighborhood in San Diego’s Torrey Highlands neighborhood. Federal govt officials, from the courtroom company Pretrial Services that was in demand of the arrangement to the U.S. Attorney’s Business, have all declined to reply the several concerns about how Francis was in a position to escape.
The letter declaring Francis’ “clean monthly bill of health” to U.S. District Decide Janis Sammartino, and how it activated an crisis hearing referred to as by the choose, is contained in 327 internet pages of courtroom documents that were sealed until eventually January of this year.
In accordance to transcripts, Francis’ lawyer Devin Burstein told the judge the letter was element of a billing dispute with the medical doctor, who was Francis’ bariatric surgeon. Burstein declined to remark on the letter when arrived at this week.
In an ironic twist, Francis — who had pleaded responsible to masterminding a decades-prolonged billing fraud towards the U.S. Navy to the tune of tens of thousands and thousands of pounds — experienced turn out to be upset when his relatives auditors came to believe he was currently being overcharged on his personal personal health care costs. That dispute led to a slipping out with the medical professional, Burstein told the judge.
The letter from the medical doctor is a person piece of a puzzle about the state of Francis’ health. There is minimal doubt based mostly on the files launched so much that Francis was unwell: at some level he had been identified with renal most cancers, and the recently unsealed courtroom records — with all unique medical information and facts redacted — strongly indicate that for some time beginning in 2018 he was in bad wellness.
But other details outside the house the court history casts his professional medical challenges in a different gentle. In an job interview recorded secretly from his house arrest someday in 2021 with podcaster Tom Wright, Francis talked about his medicine regimen and in general wellbeing.
Wright requested him at just one level if his cancer was in remission. “No,” Francis responded, then extra, “I have to maintain my clinical condition mainly because that is what keeps me out. That’s why I have my liberty. If I am nicely, I am absolutely not heading to be below.”
Inquiries about Francis’ health and fitness position have grow to be a lot more pointed in the earlier two months considering that his escape. For more than four many years it was a intently guarded secret, reviewed only in a lot more than a dozen shut-doorway, sealed-transcript hearings that Sammartino held.
It also was an concern for defense attorneys representing the team of Navy officers who went on demo before this year. Their legal professionals, who had been in the dim about Francis’ house arrest preparations and clinical difficulties, had lengthy sought extra information and facts.
“I thought that he was not truthful about the state of his wellbeing,” reported Mancano, one of the lawyers. “I signify, 1 medical doctor stated he was in superior wellness.”
The medical professional who wrote the letter declined to remark for this tale. The quick letter was sent straight to Sammartino on Nov. 24, 2020. “This letter is to notify you that Mr. Leonard Francis has been dismissed from our exercise,” it browse. “We would like to congratulate him on his clear monthly bill of overall health.”
An alarmed Sammartino termed a listening to 8 days later on. She reported she was worried for the reason that she had informed other defendants and their legal professionals that Francis’ launch “has been a legitimate clinical furlough, and at the place at which it is no for a longer period a authentic healthcare furlough, the courtroom may possibly get a distinctive place.”
Burstein then explained that Francis and the medical doctor experienced a dispute around billing. The doctor experienced stopped managing Francis some time previously — he had, in actuality, not viewed him for months, the lawyer mentioned — and Francis had misplaced religion in the medical professional because he believed he was becoming overbilled.
He explained Francis was now under the care of a new health-related crew. But that also raised a concern for Pletcher, the lead prosecutor on all the Navy bribery scandal scenarios.
Pletcher explained to the decide he only observed out the day just before that Francis had a new healthcare crew and was “dismayed” about the late discover.
“If he’s possessing a dispute, he’s possessing anything that impacts this court’s conclusion on the professional medical furlough, then we require to be the initial people today to know,” he said.
He needed the new medical practitioners to deliver a report on Francis’ situation, with an eye on the need to have to proceed the furlough.
“But actually what I want to know is, (do) his treatments still need this style of clinical furlough, or is this the type of remedy from an outpatient viewpoint that he can get with doctor’s visits to and from the facility?” Pletcher stated. “And probably with COVID-19, that is not feasible, proper?”
At the time the virus was surging once more in the county. A new continue to be-at-dwelling order would be issued inside days of the hearing, hospitalizations for the virus were spiking, and scenario figures would set each day records. Condition and federal jails, the place the virus could spread quickly, had been trying to maintain their populations minimal, so it is not likely that Francis in his even now-vulnerable wellbeing would be returned to custody.
Nevertheless, at the hearing Pletcher explained that Francis’ cure experienced worked properly, centered on the health care records.
“I do not want my feedback to be shed on what I feel is a incredibly important fundamental topic,” he claimed, “which is, in looking at by all of this, it seems he’s carrying out extremely perfectly, and for that I am thankful, and I consider the court is grateful, that all of this has experienced this meant and hoped-for consequence, and I now I talk for all people below in that we hope for the best for Mr. Francis in his health and fitness ailment.”
By March Sammartino experienced obtained stories from new medical doctors outlining Francis’ clinical ailment. The redacted transcripts get rid of tiny mild on precisely what they were, but Burstein informed Sammartino that Francis was in line for a collection of checks and strategies in the coming weeks.
The new reports, Pletcher said, confirmed Francis was “doing fairly well” and his prognosis fantastic. When Sammartino questioned if the medical furlough was still needed, he answered there was continue to “good cause” to continue to keep Francis in his present-day living predicament.
And that is the place he stayed right up until Sept. 4 all over 7:30 a.m., when he reduce the keep track of and disappeared. It took authorities 8 hrs from the time the monitoring unit sounded an warn to recognize he had escaped and start the manhunt.
Francis was scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday. The hearing is nevertheless on the calendar, though it is unlikely he will be sentenced.
Francis’ plea deal identified as for him to forfeit $35 million to the authorities. When he paid out $5 million of that a number of years ago, he fled without having owning compensated out the remainder. He still owes the government $30 million, Mancano reported.
How extensive his sentence was likely to be is mysterious. By cooperating with the govt Francis was anticipating a substantial reduction in the potential 25-year sentence he could have faced underneath the a few crimes to which he pleaded guilty.
But that arrangement is most likely void now. A clause in it claims by committing nearly a dozen acts, this kind of as not showing up in court or committing new crimes, Francis would be in breach of the offer.
In that situation, the governing administration could file any expenses “including individuals that were being dismissed, promised to be dismissed, or not submitted as a end result of this agreement.”