The United States and Venezuela Agree on a Prisoner Exchange Deal

( – Leonard “Fat Leonard” Francis, 59, is part of one of the biggest scandals in the US military’s history. He’s been running from US officials for almost two years, but his flight from justice has come to an end after a deal between President Joe Biden and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

Francis recently texted his mom from a Venezuelan jail cell and told her he would be free by the end of the year. The former US defense contractor stole millions of dollars from the Navy. He escaped house arrest in San Diego, California, in September 2022, just before his sentencing trial. A few weeks later, Venezuelan officials arrested him, and he’s been in jail since then.

Recently, Francis believed he was getting out of detention after Venezuelan authorities told him they were going to release him so he could receive medical treatment. But they were lying. Authorities hatched a plan to trick him so he wouldn’t contest his extradition to the US.

For months, the US and Venezuela secretly negotiated a prisoner swap. On December 20, Venezuelan officials placed Francis on a jet and flew him to Caracas, Canouan, in the Caribbean Islands. Once there, the convicted scammer didn’t taste freedom like he thought he would. Instead, he was handed over to US officials along with 10 other prisoners as part of an exchange. He’s now in a Miami federal prison, but will be transferred to San Diego for sentencing, nine years after pleading guilty to fraud and bribery.

Biden agreed to free Alex Saab, a close ally of Maduro, in exchange for the 10 Americans and Francis. The Colombian-born businessman was in custody on suspicion of money laundering in the US. He’d originally claimed he had diplomatic immunity, but that was denied, because the US stopped recognizing Maduro’s government as legitimate in 2019.

In recent months, the Biden Administration has tried to improve relations with Venezuela, a move Conservatives have criticized.

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