CNN.com - Defense contractor: I�paid $1 million in�bribes - Feb 24, 2006

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A defense contractor admitted Friday that he paid a California congressman more than $1 million in bribes in exchange for millions more in government contracts.

Mitchell Wade pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to conspiring with former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham to bribe the lawmaker with cash, cars and antiques, and to help him evade millions of dollars in tax liability.

"I take full responsibility for my actions," Wade told Judge Ricardo Urbina after entering his plea to charges that carry a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

Cunningham quit Congress last year after he pleaded guilty to taking bribes from Wade and others.

Wade, former president of defense contractor MZM Inc. in Washington, also acknowledged making nearly $80,000 in illegal campaign contributions in the names of MZM employees and their spouses to two other members of Congress, who were not identified. The lawmakers apparently were unaware the donations were illegal, according to court papers.

Prosecutors also laid out a second, separate conspiracy in which Wade was alleged to have paid bribes to a Defense Department official and other employees in return for their help in awarding contracts to his company. Wade pleaded guilty to this scheme as well. The Pentagon employees were not named in court filings.

Wade has been cooperating with federal prosecutors in Washington and San Diego in their ongoing investigation of the Cunningham bribery case, federal prosecutor Howard Sklamberg told the judge.

Wade is one of four coconspirators in the plea agreement and sentencing memorandum for Cunningham. The coconspirators are not named in court papers, but have been identified elsewhere.

MZM does classified intelligence work for the military. MZM's government contracts soared from less than $1 million a year to tens of millions of dollars annually in recent years.

Among Wade's gifts to Cunningham was the purchase of the congressman's California home for a price inflated by $700,000. Cunningham, 64, used the money to move into a $2.55 million, seven-bath mansion in the exclusive San Diego County community of Rancho Santa Fe.

A bribe of a $140,000 in the form of a 42-foot yacht, the Duke-Stir, brought Wade an offer of $16 million in contracts, according to Cunningham's sentencing memorandum, which calls for a 10-year prison term.

Wade bought Cunningham $190,000 in antiques over two years from one store alone, records show. Cunningham used the antiques "to feather his nest in San Diego," prosecutors said.

The former "Top Gun" flight instructor and Vietnam War flying ace is scheduled to be sentenced March 3 in U.S. District Court in San Diego.

Besides Wade, the three other coconspirators are: Brent Wilkes, founder of San Diego-based ADCS Inc.; New York businessman Thomas Kontogiannis; and John T. Michael, Kontogiannis' nephew.

Contractor pleads guilty in Cunningham case | Reuters.com

By Andy Sullivan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Defense contractor Mitchell Wade pleaded guilty on Friday to bribing former congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham and illegally funneling money to two other lawmakers, a court official said.

According to charges against him, Wade gave hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and gifts to Cunningham, an eight-term congressman from California and decorated Vietnam War pilot.

Cunningham resigned in November after pleading guilty to taking $2.4 million in bribes in exchange for help in securing Defense Department contracts and faces up to 10 years in prison. His case is one of a number of scandals that have shaken senior Republicans in Congress.

In a statement provided by his attorneys, Wade said: "It is with great remorse that I acknowledge the actions noted in this plea agreement and I feel deep sorrow for the harm I have caused my family, friends and former colleagues."

He pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy, one count of election fraud, and one count of using interstate facilities to promote bribery, the court official said.

In violation of campaign-finance laws, Wade was found to have reimbursed employees at his company MZM Inc. who made campaign contributions to two other members of Congress.

Campaign-finance records show that those lawmakers were Virginia Republican Rep. Virgil Goode and Florida Republican Rep. Katherine Harris. The charges indicate Wade did not inform either one that the contributions were unlawful.

A spokeswoman for Harris, who as Florida's secretary of state played a key role in the 2000 disputed presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore, said she had given the $52,000 she received from MZM employees to charity.

A spokesman for Goode was not immediately available for comment. According to the charges he received at least $46,000 in illegal contributions from MZM.

MZM operates several facilities in Goode's south-central Virginia district, including one that conducts background checks on foreign-owned defense contractors.

A 2003 press release from Virginia's governor at the time, Democrat Mark Warner, says Goode was "instrumental" in setting up the project.

Campaign finance expert Larry Noble said it was not unusual for lawmakers to want to bring jobs to their districts but added: "If you received money from MZM and those contracts went to MZM, given the Duke Cunningham situation obviously questions are going to be raised and Congressman Goode has to be prepared to answer questions about MZM."