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07-18-07, 12:15 AM #1
Imprisoned Cunningham Outlines Depths of Corruption to FBI
By George E. Condon Jr. and Marcus Stern
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
8:53 p.m. July 17, 2007
WASHINGTON – In two days of prison interviews with federal agents this year, disgraced former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham described a level of corruption on his part more extensive than previously known and dealt a potentially devastating blow to the defense being waged by one of the defense contractors alleged to have bribed him.
The interviews were conducted in February at the federal prison near Tucson, where the longtime Republican congressman is serving an eight-year and four-month sentence after admitting to accepting more than $2.4 million in bribes. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion.
According to an 11-page FBI summary of the sessions, obtained by Copley News Service, Cunningham was very much the initiator of his corrupt actions, demanding bribes, accepting envelopes with cash and displaying an insatiable appetite for more money, more cars, more drink, more fine food and more expensive goods.
Cunningham's answers are bad news for Brent Wilkes, president of Poway-based ADCS Inc., who is fighting bribery charges against him. They set the stage for what could be a dramatic courtroom showdown between the former North County congressman and his longtime benefactor.
Wilkes faces 30 counts in two separate indictments, including charges that he gave Cunningham $600,000 in gifts and cash in exchange for Cunningham's help in getting more than $80 million in defense contracts. Wilkes' two trials are expected to occur this fall. The government has not said if it will bring Cunningham back to San Diego to testify.
Cunningham was able to promote defense contracts for favored companies through the use of legislative “earmarks,” provisions lawmakers could slip anonymously into spending bills without debate, discussion or disclosure that benefit interests in their districts or their political supporters Wilkes has said a $100,000 payment he made to Cunningham in 2000, was not a bribe, but instead was to purchase Cunningham's river yacht, the Kelly C.
“Cunningham said that there was never a sale,” said the FBI report. “Cunningham stated that he and Wilkes created the cover story of a boat sale to explain, if anyone ever found out and asked, his receipt of $100,000 from Wilkes.” Cunningham told investigators that Wilkes fully understood that there would be “no actual change in ownership” of the yacht. The two men agreed to divide the $100,000 into two checks because both “felt that the smaller checks might be less noticeable.”
The documents show that Cunningham had first asked Wilkes for $550,000.
“Wilkes said no to the $550,000 but then countered with an offer of $100,000 if Cunningham would ensure that the support and earmarks would continue to happen. Cunningham promised Wilkes that he would 'fight like hell' for Wilkes/ADCS.”
The FBI report made the point that Cunningham was clear about the quid pro quo:
“Cunningham stated that, by 2000, he had already been receiving numerous benefits from Wilkes that included such things as vacation trips, liquor, cash/maintenance money . According to Cunningham, in return for these benefits, he had been helping Wilkes/ADCS in their efforts to secure government contracts.”
Phone messages left at Wilkes' attorneys' offices Tuesday night were not returned.
His admissions are very much at odds with the image that Cunningham tried to create after his downfall. In a letter made public and in private statements to friends, he portrayed himself as someone unable to withstand the blandishments of corrupt contractors and someone who merely accepted “gifts” but never sold his office.
His admissions to the investigators – who were from the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. attorneys' office and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service – also shed light on the actions of others implicated in the scandal.
They include Mitchell Wade, president of MZM, Inc. in Washington, who pleaded guilty in the case but has not yet been sentenced, and Thomas Kontogiannis, a New York developer accused of laundering the bribe money.
Kontogiannis pleaded guilty to providing $1.1 million in mortgages to Cunningham for a Rancho Santa Fe mansion, even though he knew the house was purchased with proceeds from illegal activity. The plea was made in February but was not made public until last month.
According to the FBI summary, Cunningham admits to being provided with prostitutes, misleading congressional ethics officials, making others buy gifts for his daughters, personally devising the schemes to launder his bribes, lying to his staff, and putting unrelenting pressure on government officials who thought the defense contracts he pushed with congressional earmarks were wasteful.
Cunningham was well placed steer military intelligence contracts toWilkes and Wade because he was on the House defense appropriations subcommitteeand the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
He also told investigators he demanded regular cash payments – he called them “maintenance money” – once even summoning one of his bribers to his office at the U.S. Capitol to give him $3,000 in cash.
In addition to the FBI summary of the prison interviews with Cunningham, Copley News Service obtained a 75-page affidavit filed by the FBI in support of a search warrant in the case. It provides glimpses of what investigators found as they built their case against Cunningham and those the suspected of conspiring with him.
The FBI stated that:
More than $1 million in bribes were laundered by being sent to Kontogiannis instead of going directly to Cunningham. Investigators identified at least 70 separate bank accounts maintained by Kontogiannis at only one bank.
Despite all his many businesses, Kontogiannis has not filed a tax return since 2001.
For the first time, investigators shed light on what Kontogiannis expected to get from Cunningham – help on a potential sale of fighter jets to his native Greece.
The Rolls Royce that drew so much attention early in the investigation was not the only car that Cunningham made the contractors buy for him. In only two days in early 2002, the congressman bought a $43,000 Thunderbird and a $41,000 BMW from Bob Baker Ford in San Diego with $63,000 of his payment coming from bribes. That was three months before Wade gave him $10,000 toward the used Rolls Royce.
In mid-2004 when Cunningham needed to make repairs to his boat, he called Wade and demanded $6,500 cash. Wade took the money out of his petty cash, stuffed the cash into a bulging envelope and rushed it over to a Cunningham fundraiser at a Washington restaurant, giving it to a Cunningham staffer.
In his prison interviews with investigators, as summarized by the FBI, the former congressman is reported to have:
Insisted there were no prostitutes at Wilkes' Washington poker games, but said Wilkes hired prostitutes for him during a Hawaii vacation. Cunningham was miffed that Wilkes got the “younger and cuter” prostitute and said he was “somewhat embarrassed on this occasion because he had some difficulty in completing intercourse.” On the next night, Cunningham again had a prostitute but said he “did not have sex” with her “because he felt guilty about his behavior.”
Said that among the many weapons Wade bought him was a Glock handgun, which he kept in a box on his boat – in apparently violation of D.C. laws.
Said he tried to make peace between Wade and Wilkes when the two former friends fought over contracts.
Openly “recalled exerting pressure on government officials” to reward his bribers.
Said Wilkes told him he was “hiding money in a bank account in Panama” to pay him bribes.
The FBI document also said Cunningham admitted to investigators he: Oversaw attempts to hide his bribe-taking in case he was ever caught.
Made Wilkes buy Cunningham's daughter a computer when she went to college and then pay for its later repair.
Made either Wilkes or Wade pay his way to the 2003 Super Bowl, Jimmy Buffet concerts in Chula Vista, and several Washington Wizards and Redskins games.
Had to find ways to get around objections from Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-El Cajon, both of whom tried to block Cunningham's spending projects for Wade and Wilkes as wasteful and unneeded.Molly Weasley makes Chuck Norris eat his vegetables.
Do not puff, shade, skew, tailor, firm up, stretch, massage,
or otherwise distort statements of fact.FBI Special Agent Coleen Rowley
07-18-07, 02:15 AM #2
Sounds like politicians as usual. We had a politician that was observed via a FBI surveillance film pocketing about $20,000.
Cash from Edwin Edwards
Fields achieved considerable notoriety in 1997 when an FBI surveillance videotape showed him accepting a large amount of cash (about $20,000) from former Louisiana Governor Edwin W. Edwards (now in federal prison) and stuffing it in his pockets. Fields has stated that the incident was just an innocent business transaction between friends, and has refused further explanation regarding its details.
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleo_Fields"Do not war for peace. If you must war, war for justice. For without justice there is no peace. -me
We are who we choose to be.
R.I.P. Arielle. 08/20/2010-09/16/2012
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