Prosecutors May Widen Congressional-Bribe Case

Friday, 28 April 2006 06:24 by: Anonymous

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Co-Conspirator's Possible Links to Prostitutes Eyed    [

    Prosecutors May Widen Congressional-Bribe Case
    By Scot J. Paltrow
    The Wall Street Journal

    Thursday 27 April 2006

Cunningham is suspected of asking for prostitutes; were others involved?

    Federal prosecutors are investigating whether two contractors implicated in the bribery of former Rep. Randall "Duke" Cunningham supplied him with prostitutes and free use of a limousine and hotel suites, pursuing evidence that could broaden their long-running inquiry.

    Besides scrutinizing the prostitution scheme for evidence that might implicate contractor Brent Wilkes, investigators are focusing on whether any other members of Congress, or their staffs, may also have used the same free services, though it isn't clear whether investigators have turned up anything to implicate others.
    [Randy Cunningham]

    In recent weeks, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents have fanned out across Washington, interviewing women from escort services, potential witnesses and others who may have been involved in the arrangement. In an interview, the assistant general manager of the Watergate Hotel confirmed that federal investigators had requested, and been given, records relating to the investigation and rooms in the hotel. But he declined to disclose what the records show. A spokeswoman for Starwood Inc., Westin's parent company, said she wasn't immediately able to get information on whether the Westin Grand had been contacted by investigators.

    Mr. Cunningham, a Republican from San Diego, was sentenced March 3 to more than eight years in federal prison after he admitted taking $2.4 million in bribes. The bribes were taken in exchange for helping executives obtain large contracts with the Defense Department and other federal agencies. Mr. Cunningham, who resigned from Congress in November, pleaded guilty to two criminal counts, one of tax evasion and one of conspiracy.

    In documents filed in federal court in San Diego, prosecutors listed four "co-conspirators" in the bribing of Mr. Cunningham. The two who allegedly played the biggest role, listed as co-conspirators No. 1 and No. 2, have been confirmed by Justice Department officials and defense lawyers to be Mr. Wilkes and Mitchell Wade, the founder and former head of MZM Inc., a software and computer-services firm that Mr. Cunningham helped to gain federal contracts.

    The charges against Mr. Cunningham had alleged that "Co-conspirator #1" - Mr. Wilkes - had given the congressman more than $600,000 in bribes, including paying off a mortgage on Mr. Cunningham's house.

    Mr. Wilkes hasn't been charged with any crime, and people with knowledge of the investigation say he recently decided he would fight any charges that might be filed rather than plead guilty and cooperate with the investigation. Michael Lipman, Mr. Wilkes's lawyer, denied his client had been involved in procuring prostitutes. "There was no such conduct. It did not happen," Mr. Lipman said. The lawyer added that "Mr. Wilkes and ADCS strongly believe that all of their actions have been proper and appropriate. They are confident that the government will come to the same conclusion."

    Mr. Wilkes, of Pohway, Calif., founded a series of companies that obtained federal contracts, including ADCS Inc., which won contracts to convert paper military records to computer images.

    Mr. Wade in February pleaded guilty to giving bribes of more than $1 million to Mr. Cunningham, including cash, antiques and payment for yachts. Mr. Wade, who hasn't been sentenced yet, is cooperating with prosecutors. According to people with knowledge of the investigation, Mr. Wade told investigators that Mr. Cunningham periodically phoned him to request a prostitute, and that Mr. Wade then helped to arrange for one. A limousine driver then picked up the prostitute as well as Mr. Cunningham, and drove them to one of the hotel suites, originally at the Watergate Hotel, and subsequently at the Westin Grand.

    Mr. Wade told investigators that all the arrangements for these services had been made by Mr. Wilkes and two employees of Mr. Wilkes's company, according to people with knowledge of his debriefing. He said Mr. Wilkes had rented the hotel suites and found the limousine driver, who had "relationships" with several escort services. Mr. Wade told prosecutors that sometimes Mr. Cunningham would contact him to request these services, and he would pass on the request to Mr. Wilkes or his employees, who then made the actual arrangement. Mr. Wade said that other times Mr. Cunningham called Mr. Wilkes directly to make the requests.

    If investigators find that any other members of Congress or their staffs received services at so-called hospitality suites, that could help make a case that they had illegally taken action to benefit Mr. Wilkes in return for favors from him. Mr. Wilkes, his family members and his employees were heavy campaign contributors to several members of Congress. But prosecutors so far apparently haven't found any evidence that other members of Congress had been bribed.

    Mr. Wade told investigators that he had knowledge only of the service being provided to Mr. Cunningham, not anyone else, and has said he doesn't know whether Mr. Wilkes may have provided prostitutes or other free entertainment to anyone besides Mr. Cunningham.

    K. Lee Blalack II, Mr. Cunningham's lawyer, said, "I have no comment on that" when asked about his client's alleged use of prostitutes. Mr. Cunningham, 64 years old, currently is undergoing a routine medical evaluation at the Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina.

    People close to the case said prosecutors had hoped that Mr. Wilkes, like Mr. Wade, would plead guilty and turn over information relevant to the investigation. Now that he has indicated he won't do so, prosecutors are hunting for evidence to bolster any potential case against him.

    Meanwhile, prosecutors are looking at whether they can make corruption cases against other lawmakers based on Mr. Wilkes's campaign contributions to them. But lawyers expert in campaign-finance and criminal law say such cases are far more difficult to prove than those involving outright bribery. The government must show a direct "quid pro quo" that a lawmaker has taken action on a particular bill solely because of a campaign contribution.

    Proof of the prostitution scheme, on the other hand, could provide potentially damaging evidence that Mr. Wilkes had taken illegal steps in exchange for legislative favors, people involved in the investigation said.

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    Co-Conspirator's Possible Links to Prostitutes Eyed
    By Dean Calbreath
    The San Diego Union-Tribune

    Friday 28 April 2006

    Federal prosecutors are reviewing records of two Washington, D.C., hotels where Poway defense contractor Brent Wilkes rented suites as part of their investigation into whether prostitutes were involved as he tried to curry favor with lawmakers and CIA officials.

    Wilkes, whom federal prosecutors have identified as a co-conspirator in the bribery case of former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, rented hospitality suites in the capital on behalf of his flagship company, ADCS Inc.

    As The San Diego Union-Tribune reported in December, the suites - first at the Watergate Hotel and then at the Westin Grand Hotel - had several bedrooms where lawmakers and other guests could relax.

    Federal investigators are trying to determine whether Cunningham and other legislators brought prostitutes to the hotels or prostitutes were provided for them there, according to a report in yesterday's Wall Street Journal and confirmed by the Union-Tribune.

    A source close to the bribery case, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation, told the Union-Tribune that Mitchell Wade, who pleaded guilty in February to bribing Cunningham, told federal prosecutors that he periodically helped arrange for a prostitute for the then-congressman.

    A limousine would pick up Cunningham and a prostitute and take them to the ADCS hospitality suite, Wade reportedly told investigators. Federal agents are investigating whether other legislators had similar arrangements with Wilkes or Wade, a business associate of Wilkes who ran his own defense contracting company, MZM Inc.

    Wilkes' attorney, Michael Lipman, denies that his client hired prostitutes.

    Two of Wilkes' former business associates say they were present on several occasions when Shirlington Limousine & Transportation Service of northern Virginia brought prostitutes to the suite. They say they did not see lawmakers in the suites on those occasions, though both had heard rumors of congressmen bringing women to the rooms.

    Shirlington's attorney, Bobby S. Stafford, confirmed in a letter that from the company's founding in 1990 through the early 2000s, Shirlington President Christopher Baker "provided limousine services for Mr. Wilkes for whatever entertainment he had in the Watergate."

    Stafford's letter stated that Baker was "never in attendance in any party where any women were being used for prostitution purposes."

    Last year, Shirlington won a $21 million contract from the Department of Homeland Security.

    According to the Journal, FBI agents have interviewed women employed at escort services in Washington, as well as other potential witnesses.

    In his guilty plea in November, Cunningham said Wilkes, referred to as "co-conspirator No. 1," gave him more than $630,000 in cash and gifts in order to gain government contracts. Wade, known as "co-conspirator No. 2," also named Wilkes in his guilty plea. Wilkes has not been indicted in the case, and his companies continue to receive money from government contracts.

    Several of Wilkes' former employees and business associates say he used the hospitality suites over the past 15 years to curry favor with lawmakers as well as officials with the CIA, where both Wilkes and Wade sought contracts.

    Wilkes hosted parties for lawmakers and periodic poker games that included CIA officials as well as members of the House Appropriations and Intelligence committees. Cunningham, who sat on both committees, was a frequent guest, according to some of the participants in the poker games.

    People who were present at the games said one of the regular players was Kyle Dustin "Dusty" Foggo, who has been Wilkes' best friend since the two attended junior high school in Chula Vista in the late 1960s. In October, Foggo was named the CIA's executive director - the agency's third-highest position.

    Another player was a CIA agent known as "Nine Fingers," so named because he lost one of his digits while on assignment.

    "I remember big spreads of food and alcohol, but mostly cigars," said former Rep. Charlie Wilson of Texas, who attended a couple of the poker parties during the 1990s.

    Wilson said nearly all the poker players at the two games he attended were CIA officials, including Foggo and Nine Fingers. He said there were no women or other lawmakers present, but added that he had to leave the games early "because the cigar smoke was too thick, and I don't deal well with that."

    Foggo, who occasionally hosted the poker parties at his house in northern Virginia, is under investigation by the CIA's inspector general to determine whether he helped Wilkes gain CIA contracts.

    CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said such an investigation is routine when questions are raised about an official's actions at the agency.

    "Because the inspector general's review is ongoing, it would be inappropriate to discuss specific matters that may fall within that review," Gimigliano said. "The fact that the inspector general is looking into something should in no way be seen as lending credibility to any assertion."

    One of Wilkes' companies, Archer Logistics, won a contract to provide bottled water, first-aid kits and other supplies to CIA agents in Afghanistan and Iraq. The company had no previous experience with such work, having been founded a few months before the contract was granted.

    Critics familiar with the contract, valued at $2 million to $3 million, say the CIA overpaid for the work. The contract was approved by the CIA office in Frankfurt, Germany, where Foggo oversaw acquisitions. Foggo did not personally sign the contract, however, said unnamed CIA officials who spoke with Newsweek.

    "Mr. Foggo maintains that the contracts for which he was responsible were properly awarded and administered," Gimigliano said.

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