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US: 12 Years for Contractor in Bribery Case

February 20th, 2008

SAN DIEGO (AP) A defense contractor was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison Tuesday for bribing former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham with cash, trips, the services of prostitutes and other gifts in exchange for nearly $90 million in Pentagon work.

Brent Wilkes was labeled "a predatory wolf (in) self-styled patriot's clothing" and a "poster boy for war profiteering" by prosecutor Phillip Halpern. U.S. District Judge Larry Burns said he was troubled that Wilkes continued to maintain his innocence.

"If you were to do the right thing about this, today is the day to own up," Burns told Wilkes at the sentencing hearing.

"You have no sense of contrition," the judge added. "You had this corrupt relationship with the congressman and you profited from it."

Wilkes, 53, was convicted in November on 13 counts of bribery, conspiracy and wire fraud.

Prosecutors argued during a three-week trial that Wilkes lavished Cunningham with more than $700,000 in perks, including cash, submachine gun shooting lessons and the services of prostitutes. In return, they said, Cunningham helped Wilkes secure $87 million in Pentagon contracts, mainly for scanning paper documents.

Wilkes' attorney asked for a sentence less than the eight years and four months Cunningham received. Prosecutors asked for a "significantly higher punishment," and federal probation officials had recommended 60 years.

Wilkes acknowledged no wrongdoing in a brief statement in which he asked the judge to look beyond his dealings with Cunningham.

"I am a man who cares deeply for this community, for my family, for my country," Wilkes said.

Cunningham, an eight-term Republican congressman and Vietnam War flying ace, pleaded guilty in 2005 to accepting $2.4 million in bribes from Wilkes and others including antiques, boats, a used Rolls-Royce and cash to pay the mortgage on his mansion.

Wilkes has insisted on his innocence since he was charged almost exactly one year ago. In eight hours on the witness stand, he testified that his transactions with Cunningham were legitimate and flatly denied bribing him or any other lawmakers.

He blamed wrongdoing on others, particularly his former employee Mitchell Wade, who in 2006 admitted giving Cunningham more than $1 million in kickbacks for about $150 million in government contracts. Wade awaits sentencing.

Neither side called on Cunningham to testify.

Authorities said Wilkes bribed Cunningham to win work for ADCS Inc., a data and document storage company he owned.

"Wilkes coldly and successfully exploited the simplemindedness of one of this country's war heroes, now a tortured shadow of his former self," prosecutors wrote in a pre-sentencing court filing last week. "Wilkes stands now revealed as a war profiteer, a thug, a bully, a lecherous old man who preyed on his young female staffers and hired prostitutes."

Wilkes and a former top CIA official, Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, were charged in a separate corruption case last year that alleged Wilkes gave Foggo meals, trips and other perks. Wilkes was also accused of promising Foggo, a childhood friend, a job upon retirement.

In that case, Wilkes and Foggo have each pleaded not guilty to 30 counts of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.

Federal prosecutors said last week that they would drop charges against Wilkes in that case but reserved the right to indict him on the same or similar charges. The government also dropped objections to moving the case against Foggo, the CIA's former No. 3 official, from San Diego to Virginia.

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