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Defense Contractor Guilty of Bribery

Mitchell Wade admits he gave ex-Rep. Randy `Duke' Cunningham more than $1 million.

February 25, 2006|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

Defense contractor Mitchell J. Wade pleaded guilty Friday to giving former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Rancho Santa Fe) more than $1 million in bribes in exchange for help landing government contracts.

Wade, 46, also pleaded guilty to providing favors to Defense Department officials and funneling illegal campaign contributions to two members of Congress. A former Navy officer and Defense Department official, Wade faces a maximum sentence of more than 11 years in prison.

"I take full responsibility for my actions," Wade told Judge Ricardo Urbina in U.S. District Court in Washington.

Wade founded MZM Inc., a Washington-based company specializing in the electronic gathering and analysis of intelligence. The company, which he has left, has received more than $150 million in contracts since 2002.

Cunningham resigned from Congress in November after pleading guilty to receiving $2.4. million from four co-conspirators, including Wade, and evading more than $1 million in taxes.

Wade paid $700,000 above market value for Cunningham's home in Del Mar Heights and allowed the congressman to live rent-free on his 42-foot yacht moored on the Potomac River.

He also hired the son of a defense official and got inside information that allowed him to land contracts for MZM.

In addition, Wade funneled $80,000 in contributions to two unnamed members of Congress by illegally reimbursing MZM employees for making the contributions. The lawmakers, officials said, were unaware of the scheme. Federal Elections Commission documents identify two members of Congress who received large-scale contributions from MZM employees as Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr. (R-Va.) and Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.).

Cunningham has admitted receiving antiques, furnishings, weekend trips to resorts, use of a Rolls Royce, Persian rugs and cash in exchange for exerting his influence on Capitol Hill.

The co-conspirators were unnamed, but have been identified through search warrants and other public documents as Wade; Poway defense contractor Brent Wilkes; Long Island, N.Y., business owner Thomas Kontogiannis; and Kontogiannis' nephew, John T. Michael.

Prosecutors said that Cunningham demanded the payoffs and even sketched out a "bribe menu" describing the size of bribes necessary for certain amounts of contracts. They have recommended the maximum 10 years in prison when the ex-lawmaker is sentenced next week in San Diego.

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