U.S. prosecutors claim home of Calif. lawmaker - Yahoo! News

By Marty Graham

The U.S. Attorney's Office has initiated attempts to seize the home of U.S. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, alleging that the California Republican's $3.5 million estate was purchased with bribe money, court records show.

Cunningham, 63, an eight-term congressman, has been under investigation by federal prosecutors, the Internal Revenue Service and the criminal investigative arm of the Pentagon over his ties to a defense contractor who purchased another home of his in late 2003, then sold it for a loss.

The sealed court documents, filed on July 21 and first reported by the San Diego Union Tribune, give notice of a civil lawsuit seeking title to the Rancho Santa Fe, California, property, owned by Cunningham and his wife, Nancy.

The court filing, which was made a week after Cunningham announced he would not seek re-election in 2006, said that the congressman's house "constitutes or is derived from proceeds traceable to a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 201."

That federal law relates to bribery and conflicts of interest by government officials.

Cunningham's attorney, K. Lee Blalack, declined to comment on the forfeiture action but said he had filed a motion in protest. The memo argues that Cunningham's due process rights were being violated because the notice was secretly filed and the couple were not properly served.

Cunningham announced in July that he would not seek re-election in 2006, two weeks after federal agents raided the Rancho Santa Fe home, his yacht and his Washington offices.

The investigation into the former Vietnam War fighter pilot stemmed from his $1.6 million sale of his Del Mar, California, home in 2003 to Mitchell Wade, until recently the chief executive of MZM, Inc., a Washington-based defense contractor.

Wade shortly thereafter sold the home for a $700,000 loss in the midst of San Diego's booming housing market.

Earlier this week, FBI agents searched the offices of a second federal contractor located in Poway, a San Diego suburb, the Union-Tribune reported. The newspaper cited sources close to the investigation as saying the search centered on government contract records.

Cunningham is a member of the House intelligence committee and Appropriations sub-committee that controls defense spending


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