A Malaysian businessman at the centre of a major US Navy bribery scandal has escaped house arrest before his impending sentencing by cutting off his monitoring anklet, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
Leonard Francis, popularly known as “Fat Leonard”, cut off his GPS anklet sometime on Sunday morning and when police went to his home, they found it empty, the newspaper reported, citing Supervisory Deputy US Marshal Omar Castillo.
Prosecutors said that in exchange for contracts, Francis plied Navy officers with cash, gourmet food, expensive cigars, rare cognac and wild sex parties in fancy hotels.
Reuters could not reach marshals to verify his escape.
Local law enforcement and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service are participating in the search, the Union-Tribune said.
“He was planning this out, that's for sure,” Mr Castillo was quoted as saying.
Neighbours reported they had seen moving lorries going into and out of his home in recent days, Mr Castillo said.
Leonard, who had been co-operating with US investigators, was released on a medical furlough and had been under house arrest before his sentencing on September 22, the Union-Tribune said.
In 2015, Leonard pleaded guilty to bribing Navy officials as part of a wide-ranging bribery and fraud scheme involving his Singapore-based company, Glenn Defence Marine Asia, which serviced ships in the Navy's Pacific Fleet.
The US Justice Department, which called the scheme a colossal fraud that cost the US Navy tens of millions of dollars, brought charges against more than 30 people, many of whom pleaded guilty or were convicted at trial.