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‘Fat Leonard’ from Navy bribery scandal escapes house arrest in San Diego

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SAN DIEGO (AP) — Three weeks before he faced sentencing, the Malaysian defense contractor at the center of one of the biggest bribery investigations in U.S. military history made an escape as stunning and brazen as the case itself: U-Haul trucks were seen at his home in a tony San Diego neighborhood before Leonard Glenn Francis, known as “Fat Leonard,” snipped off his ankle monitor and disappeared.

Nearly a dozen U.S. law enforcement agencies were searching for Francis on Tuesday. But officials acknowledged he may already be in Mexico, and possibly on his way back to Asia.

Four years ago, U.S. District Court Judge Janis Sammartino feared Francis might run off when she turned down his lawyer’s request to allow him to be under house arrest without round-the-clock security guards watching the ailing defense contractor. At the time, Francis was cooperating with prosecutors as they pursued charges against dozens of Navy officials who accepted bribes in exchange for classified information that gave Francis’ ship servicing business in Asia an edge in getting military contracts.

When asked about the bold escape Tuesday, his lawyer, Devin Burstein, who pushed for more leniency for his client, said: “At this time, I have no comment, sorry.”

Sammartino repeatedly maintained that Francis, who was in poor health and needed medical care, could only remain under house arrest if private security guards were on site. At one point she expressed concern that if he were to escape and ended up “back in Malaysia for whatever reason,” her name would come up if anyone asked “who let somebody do this without any security,” according to a transcript of a closed-door hearing in February 2018 that was unsealed in January.

She raised similar concerns in another hearing on Dec. 17, 2020, after receiving a report that the home was left without anyone guarding it for nearly three hours, according to the court transcript. The guard said he had been on a long lunch break, and Francis apologized to the judge for the mishap.

It was unclear if round-the-clock security guards were still in place this weekend.

The U.S. Attorney’s office in San Diego declined to comment, referring calls to the U.S. Marshals Service. Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal, Omar Castillo, said his officers found no security officers at the home when they arrived Sunday afternoon, nearly seven hours after Francis is believed to have removed his ankle monitor with heavy scissors. The device was found in the home.

Castillo said someone called the San Diego police department, which sent officers to the home shortly before 2 p.m. to check on it. Castillo said he did not know who made the call. After finding the home empty, police contacted U.S. Pre-Trial Services, the federal agency in charge of his confinement, which then called the U.S. Marshals Service.

Castillo said he did not know if security guards were still ordered to be there. He said neighbors reported seeing U-Haul trucks coming and going from the home one or two days before the escape. Pre-Trial Services declined to comment or answer questions.

The home is about a 40-minute drive from the Mexican border, where vehicles stream into Tijuana and are only stopped randomly. Castillo said Mexican authorities have been put on alert and 10 U.S. law enforcement agencies at local, state and federal levels were searching for Francis on Tuesday.

Castillo said GPS ankle monitors are easy to remove and do not stop people from escaping. He added that he would not be surprised if Francis was already in Mexico since it is easy to drive into the country and not be stopped.

“That’s the risk that is taken when defendants are on GPS monitoring, you know,” he said. “They don’t all cut off their GPS bracelets, but this can happen.”

It was a surprising turn in a case already full of shocking revelations.

Nearly a decade ago, Francis was arrested in a San Diego hotel as part of a federal sting operation. Investigators say he and his company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia, bilked the Navy out of more than $35 million by buying off dozens of top-ranking Navy officers with booze, sex, lavish parties and other gifts. In exchange the officers, including the first active-duty admiral to be convicted of a federal crime, concealed the scheme in which Francis would overcharge for supplying ships or charge for fake services at ports he controlled in Southeast Asia.

The case, which delved into salacious details about service members cheating on their wives and seeking out prostitutes, was an embarrassment to the Pentagon. It was prosecuted by the U.S. attorney’s office, which offered an independent authority from the military justice system.

Francis was scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 22 after working with prosecutors for years, leading to dozens of convictions.

All that cooperation will mean nothing now, but Francis may be hard to catch, given his wealth and vast worldwide connections, said Jason Forge, a former federal prosecutor in San Diego who worked on a number of high-profile corruption cases.

“He doesn’t strike me as the type of person under these circumstances to make a spontaneous decision,” Forge said. “I’m assuming this means he has planned things out and he has the wherewithal to do so. He will probably be a free bird for awhile.”


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Man faces underage sex crime charges | News, Sports, Jobs

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A Tyrone man facing dozens of charges involving child pornography and human trafficking has been denied bail.

Paul Robert Holpit, 24, was arraigned Wednesday morning before Magisterial District Judge Fred B. Miller on 15 felony charges each of photographing, filming, or depicting a sex act involving a child and of disseminating explicit sexual material to a minor; eight felony counts each of trafficking in individuals-recruit/entice/solicit, of corruption of minors, of unlawful contact with a minor-sexual offenses and of drug possession with intent to deliver; three felony counts of criminal solicitation; two felony counts each of trafficking in individuals for financial benefit, of child pornography and of criminal solitication-sexual exploitation of children; one felony count each of criminal soliticiation-involuntary deviate sexual intercourse of a person less than 16 years of age and of criminal solicitation-involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child; and 10 felony counts of criminal use of a communication facility.

He also faces two misdemeanor counts of corruption of minors and a misdemeanor count of indecent assault of a person less than 16 years old.

According to the court docket, Holpit was denied bail due to the threat to the community and safety of the victims, his flight risk and the nature of the charges.

Holpit was remanded to the Blair County Prison awaiting a Sept. 20 preliminary hearing in front of Miller.

Pot for sex alleged

The charges stem from an five-month investigation by the Tyrone Borough Police Department after a minor female told police that Holpit provided numerous minors with marijuana in exchange for sexual acts.

On the police department’s Facebook page, police said 11 minor victims were identified and forensic interviews were conducted. The victims ranged from 12 to 17 years old, police said.

On May 6, borough police executed a search warrant on Holpit’s West 14th Street home and seized three iPhones, a Playstation, two HP laptops, an iWatch, cable modem, related charging cords, 297 grams of marijuana, clear sandwich bags, a silver scale and a glass pipe with residue.

Officers also received permission from parents and guardians to review the contents of cellphones belonging to the minors, court documents state.

During subsequent interviews, police said the minors reported talking to Holpit on Snapchat and meeting him in person. Holpit allegedly sent nude photos of himself to one 15-year-old, who said he sent photos at least once a day starting in December 2021 and continued for about two months. He also offered her free marijuana, alcohol and money in exchange for a sex act, the teen told police.

A 17-year-old told police she received marijuana from Holpit for about two years. In October 2021, Holpit began asking the girl for nude photos and she provided him with pictures a couple of times in exchange for marijuana. At least once, Holpit requested sex and he would send random pictures and videos of his genitals, she said. He also talked about her 12-year-old sister, asking the girl to talk the youngster into having sex with him for money.

The 12-year-old said she began talking to Holpit through Snapchat and then he began asking for photos of her body. He offered money, marijuana and tobacco for the pictures, she told police. He continued to ask, even though she said no, she said, and he sent photos of his genitals. He allegedly offered her money for oral sex.

Another 15-year-old said Holpit added her to Snapchat when she was 12 or 13 years old and conversations became sexual in nature, with Holpit asking for sex and sex acts in exchange for marijuana. She bought marijuana from him, the teen told police, and received nude photos of him on multiple occasions.

The interviews with the teens continued into June and July, according to court documents, and police talked to a 17-year-old, who also said she communicated with Holpit via Snapchat. Holpit allegedly sent her photos multiple times that included his genitals. He also asked for sexual favors in exchange for marijuana. The teen told police she did buy marijuana from Holpit in the past.

A 16-year-old said she purchased marijuana from Holpit and he used Snapchat to set up the purchases. She told police she then blocked him because she knew he sent nude photos to minors and requested sexual favors.

Marijuana bought

Four other minors, ranging in age from 15 to 17, told police that Holpit was their marijuana dealer. They also reported using Snapchat and that Holpit sent nude photos, asked for sex, sex acts and nude photos in exchange for the drug and in one case, asked a girl to have sex with him and another male in exchange for marijuana.

One 17-year-old said she began purchasing marijuana from Holpit, but the exchanges turned sexual, with Holpit giving her marijuana for sex acts and nude photos. He also sent her nude photos of himself via Snapchat and she received images about three times a week from November 2021 until April of this year, when she contacted police. Police said a majority of the in-person contacts with Holpit occurred at a Tyrone Borough church. At least one incident occurred in the parking lot of Penn Highlands Tyrone Hospital, police stated.

All victims reported receiving unsolicited photos of Holpit’s genitals and the photos appeared to have been taken in his bedroom, according to court documents.

Images of girls found

A search of Holpit’s cellphone turned up photos of the girls as well as images of large amounts of marijuana and cash. In addition, police said several conversations indicated Holpit was dealing marijuana. Videos, including of a minor girl giving oral sex to a minor boy, were found on the phone.

Police said 20 images and/or videos depicting child pornography were found and that Holpit provided eight minors with photos of his genitals.

He also provided seven of the juveniles with marijuana and arranged drug sales or disseminated pornographic images to nine individuals, court documents state. Holpit would meet individuals at various spots in Tyrone Borough to make drug deliveries, police reported.



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After 6 years, Karnataka government orders abolition of ACB, revival of Lokayukta

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The Karnataka government on Friday issued an order abolishing the state Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), saying all its cases will be transferred to the Lokayukta.

The government order said that as per the orders of the Karnataka High Court, the ACB will be abolished and police station powers reordered to Lokayukta police. All the cases which are pending/under inquiry/other disciplinary actions will be transferred to Lokayukta, it added.

In mid-August, a division bench of the Karnataka High Court had ordered the abolishing of ACB and revival of an anti-corruption police unit attached to the Karnataka Lokayukta, a quasi-judicial institution that works independent of the state.

The high court order quashed a notification issued by the then Congress government in the state on March 14, 2016, to create the ACB and also subsequent notifications transferring power to probe corruption cases under Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, from Karnataka Lokayukta police to the ACB.

“All inquiries, investigations and other disciplinary proceedings pending before ACB will get transferred to the Lokayukta. However, all inquiries, investigations, disciplinary proceedings, orders of convictions/acquittals and all other proceedings held by ACB till today are hereby saved and the police wing of Karnataka Lokayukta shall proceed from the stage at which they are pending as on today, in accordance with law,” the bench said in its order.

Stating that it was “high time” the state government strengthened the institution of Lokayukta and Upa-Lokayukta and got back their “glory”, the court observed that the institution of Lokayukta has been reduced to being “paper tigers” by the March 14, 2016 executive order to transfer police powers to ACB.

The order for abolishing the ACB relates to cases filed in 2016 by the Advocates Association of Bengaluru, the Samaj Parivartana Samudaya, and advocate Chidananda Urs over Lokayukta powers being given to ACB.

The high court had stated that “there was no necessity for the state government to constitute ACB parallel to the institution of Lokayukta, that too when a person to be appointed as Lokayukta shall be a person who has held the office of a judge of Supreme Court, or that of the Chief Justice of a high court, or a person who has held the office of a judge of a high court for not less than ten years; and a person to be appointed a Upa-Lokayukta shall be a person who has held the office of a judge of a high court for not less than five years.”

The high court acknowledged that Lokayukta had become a powerful institution and was plagued by internal corruption but observed that the solution to the problem was in cleaning the institution and not withdrawing its powers to probe.




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Latest Updates: Deepak Mundi sent to 7-day police remand in Sidhu Moosewala case

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THE TIMES OF INDIA | Sep 11, 2022, 10:55:02 IST

Daily City News Updates

Union home and cooperation minister Amit Shah will take part in a cooperative conference in Gujarat’s Amreli district on Sunday and unveil a 16-feet tall statue of Lord Hanuman in Somnath town. Stay with TOI for all the latest updates:Read Less




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