“Fat Leonard,” the Malaysian businessman at the heart of a corruption scandal that has brought down numerous U.S. Navy officials, is set to tell all for the first time in a nine-part podcast series beginning Tuesday.
In a brief and breathless trailer for the podcast, Leonard Glenn Francis, who has pleaded guilty and is helping prosecutors in exchange for a possibly reduced sentence, brags: “I had the Navy by their balls. I turned my torpedoes, my guns, against them because they betrayed me.”
The specifics of that perceived betrayal will apparently be revealed as the podcast, titled Fat Leonard, unfolds. What the teaser makes clear, however, is that Francis is anything but contrite over his misdeeds.
“Everybody was in my pocket,” he says in the trailer. “I had them in my palm. I was just rolling them around,” he says with a chuckle.
Francis operated Glenn Defense Marine Asia, which contracted with the U.S. Navy to provide food, water, fuel, tugboats and sewage removal for ships and installations in the Pacific.
Francis began recruiting Navy personnel to direct contracts toward his company around 2006. He bribed them with money, luxury items and prostitutes in return for classified information about the movement of ships and submarines in Southeast Asia, and routinely overcharged or fabricated invoices.
He pleaded guilty in federal court in January 2015 and began cooperating with investigators. He has not yet been sentenced.
“With nothing to lose, Leonard is sparing no details,” touts the podcast trailer.
In the first episode, listeners will meet the 300-pound Francis, who will talk about a troubled childhood. Episode two begins with his launching of a career as a defense contractor at age 21.
The podcast is a joint production of PRX, a nonprofit media company that specializes in audio journalism and storytelling, and Project Brazen, a firm founded by Bradley Hope and Tom Wright, former reporters at The Wall Street Journal.
Francis has not spoken publicly about the sprawling corruption case that has led to federal criminal charges of more than 30 people, including 10 commissioned Navy officers.
In September 2018, however, the San Diego Union-Tribune obtained a transcript of a deposition given by Francis in the just-concluded court-martial of Navy Cmdr. David Morales, who had been charged with conspiracy and bribery but found guilty only of violating lawful orders and conduct unbecoming an officer.
Francis in the deposition said he was suffering from kidney cancer, out of federal prison on a medical furlough and under home confinement in San Diego. He said he was counting on receiving a lesser sentence made possible by a cooperation agreement he entered with the U.S. Justice Department.
Earlier this month, retired Marine Corps Col. Enrico DeGuzman, 63, entered a plea deal and admitted accepting $67,000 in gourmet dining, gifts and stays at high-end hotels in exchange for steering business toward Francis.
The disgraced Marine is among nine military officers who were all charged in a 2017 federal indictment.
Among those officers was Robert Gorsuch, a retired Navy chief warrant officer, who pleaded guilty Aug. 31 to taking more than $45,000 in bribes in exchange for sharing classified ship schedules.
The remaining seven defendants — including a rear admiral who was once the 7th Fleet intelligence chief — are scheduled for trial in federal court in February.