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‘Fat Leonard,’ facing sentencing in bribery scandal, is on the lam

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SAN DIEGO — The military contractor who pleaded guilty to orchestrating the “Fat Leonard” corruption scandal and was under house arrest in San Diego is now on the run after cutting off his GPS monitoring ankle bracelet over the weekend, federal authorities said.

Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal Omar Castillo said Leonard Glenn Francis removed the tracker Sunday, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

After police officers found Francis’ home empty, the San Diego Regional Fugitive Task Force and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service began a high-profile search, the newspaper reported.

Castillo said neighbors witnessed U-Haul moving trucks coming to and from Francis’ home in the days before his escape.

Francis, known far and wide as “Fat Leonard,” was chief executive of Glenn Defense Marine Asia when he was arrested in San Diego in 2013. At the time, it was the pre-eminent ship husbanding firm in the region. Two years later, he pleaded guilty to offering $500,000 in bribes to Navy officers. In exchange, the officers passed him classified information and even went so far as redirecting military vessels to ports that were lucrative for his Singapore-based ship servicing company.

Prosecutors say Francis and his company overcharged the U.S. military by more than $35 million for its services.

Francis has been on house arrest since at least 2018 and under the supervision of a federal agency that monitors defendants who are out of custody until sentencing. He was set to be sentenced at the end of month.

Francis’ defense attorney, Devin Burstein, declined to comment to the Union-Tribune on Monday.


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New Mexico AG wants state’s anti-corruption law strengthened

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas is calling on lawmakers to strengthen the state’s anti-corruption law.

A recent ruling by the New Mexico Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of criminal charges against four defendants, and Balderas told the Albuquerque Journal that the court “took away from citizens a very necessary tool to prosecute public officials who use their public office for their own personal gain.”

The case dealt with the dismissal of ethics charges against a series of former public officials, including a former Doña Ana County treasurer, an ex-district attorney and a former taxation and revenue official.

The Journal reported that the state Supreme Court’s unanimous opinion centered on the enforcement of three provisions in the Governmental Conduct Act — subsections that direct officials to treat their positions as a public trust, conduct themselves in a way that justifies the confidence placed in them by the people and disclose conflicts of interest.

The high court ruled the sections were never intended by legislators to be enforced as criminal statutes and the language doesn’t “spell out what act or omission is required for its violation and does not establish criminal elements that could inform clear jury instructions.”

The state Legislature is set to open a 60-day session in January when lawmakers may take up legislation revising ethics laws and other statutes, according to the Journal.

Balderas, a Democrat whose term ends this year, told the newspaper that he’s urging lawmakers to work with the ethics agency to “strengthen these laws in order to build public trust with our community which has grown skeptical and tired of corruption.”


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New Mexico Supreme Court upholds dismissal of corruption charges against four officials

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ALBUQUERQUE – New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas is calling on lawmakers to strengthen the state’s anti-corruption law.

A recent ruling by the New Mexico Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of criminal charges against four defendants, and Balderas told the Albuquerque Journal that the court “took away from citizens a very necessary tool to prosecute public officials who use their public office for their own personal gain.”

The case dealt with the dismissal of ethics charges against a series of former public officials, including former Doña Ana County Treasurer David Gutierrez, an ex-Sixth Judicial District Attorney Francesca Estevez, former New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla and ex-San Juan County Magistrate Judge Connie Lee Johnston.

In each of the cases, district courts dismissed the charges but the state appealed the verdicts. The cases were lumped together in from the Supreme Court as each centered on the enforcement of three provisions in the Governmental Conduct Act — subsections that direct officials to treat their positions as a public trust, conduct themselves in a way that justifies the confidence placed in them by the people and disclose conflicts of interest.

Two of the cases involved elected officials from southern New Mexico.

Gutierrez was removed from office after he was found guilty on civil charges of public corruption or gross immorality by a public official in 2016, after sexual harassment allegations were raised by a woman who worked in the office. But criminal charges against Gutierrez were dropped in 2016 by an Alamogordo District Court judge before a trial could begin.

Estevez, the DA for Hidalgo, Luna and Grant counties, faced multiple ethics charges after she allegedly intimidated police to subvert an investigation after she was pulled over in June 2016 for reckless driving in Silver City. Though Estevez would accept a plea deal in 2018 — pleading guilty to one count of reckless driving and two counts of disorderly conduct — a criminal corruption charge against her was dismissed by Third Judicial District Judge Douglas Driggers.

The state appealed the dismissal of the criminal corruption charges against Gutierrez, Estevez and others and in 2020 the New Mexico Court of Appeals reversed three of four decisions, including against the two against southern New Mexico officials.

The high court, however, unanimously ruled the sections of the GCA were never intended by legislators to be enforced as criminal statutes and the language doesn’t “spell out what act or omission is required for its violation and does not establish criminal elements that could inform clear jury instructions.”

The state Legislature is set to open a 60-day session in January when lawmakers may take up legislation revising ethics laws and other statutes, according to the Journal.

Balderas, a Democrat whose term ends this year, told the newspaper that he’s urging lawmakers to work with the ethics agency to “strengthen these laws in order to build public trust with our community which has grown skeptical and tired of corruption.”

This article originally appeared on Las Cruces Sun-News: New Mexico Supreme Court upholds dismissal of corruption charges against four officials


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PN calls for police update after Marsa junction scandal

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PN MP Beppe Fenech Adami has called for a police update after the news broke that the European Union’s anti-fraud office is investigating the Marsa junction project.

The MP was addressing Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri in Parliament.

The European Union’s anti-fraud office is investigating the Marsa junction project after data found on Yorgen Fenech’s mobile phone indicated the possibility of corruption, the Times of Malta reported on Sunday. The newspaper said that data on the phone revealed that Fenech had a background role as a middleman in the project and that he had been promised €2 million in success fees – half of which would pass through a secret company linked to the infamous 17 Black.

“Had the authorities sent for the former chief of staff, or for the former prime minister to ask them if they knew anything? Did they know how the €40 million tender was awarded to one bidder and not the other?,” Fenech Adami asked.

Asked outside parliament later during the day by sections of the press, Prime minister Robert Abela said that he did not know about the Marsa flyover being probed by the European’s prosecutor’s office over corruption suspicions.

Fenech Adami also asked for an explanation as to how a four year old who was on a migrant boat in national waters was left to die cause of a lack of a search at sea  in four days.

“I know this will not make me popular, but we must have the guts to say that it is not right that a four-year-old girl dies from thirst in an area which the country is responsible for,” he said.

The girl, Loujin was travelling with her mother on a boat amongst some 60 Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian migrants at the end of August, with the intention of sailing from Lebanon to Italy. They had been adrift for days and the girl died while being airlifted to a hospital in Greece.

Fenech Adami stated that Malta has certain international obligations, despite the Opposition’s clear position that the country’s laws should be respected, that criminals should be prosecuted, and that human trafficking should not be facilitated.

The PN MP wants that Minister Camilleri “come clean” and provide all relevant information regarding the case.

Fenech Adami said that this criticism is not intended towards AFM workers who carry their work dutifully.

“When I criticise, I am not criticising the courageous soldiers. I am criticising, very harshly the political decisions taken,” he said.




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