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Dialing for Dollars Republican Style

More details about the sordid web of corruption surrounding former Republican Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham who is now serving 8 years in jail have been revealed. Millionaire financier Thomas Kontogiannis copped a guilty plea last February and has been cooperating with federal investigators. The details of his guilty plea have now been revealed in a story by the San Diego Union Tribune:

Thomas Kontogiannis said he helped finance the purchase of Cunningham's $2.5 million house in Rancho Santa Fe, in a deal that evolved from two military contractors' alleged plans to bribe the congressman.

The housing transactions were part of a bribery scheme involving military contractors Mitchell Wade of Washington, D.C., and Brent Wilkes of Poway, according to Cunningham's guilty plea and other court documents.

In return for numerous favors - including the purchase of Cunningham's Del Mar house at an inflated price, the financing of his Rancho Santa Fe home and gifts of Persian rugs, antique furniture, a Rolls-Royce and free vacations - the two contractors received millions of dollars in contracts through the House Appropriations Committee, where Cunningham sat, according to federal prosecutors.

Kontogiannis, in a guilty plea that was rendered under seal in February but made public in San Diego federal court this week, admitted providing $1.1 million in mortgages for the Rancho Santa Fe house even though he believed the home purchase involved "the proceeds of illegal activity."

Beyond the home deal, Kontogiannis also said he financed the purchase of Cunningham's condominium in Arlington, Va., and bought Cunningham's yacht - even though he had no interest in owning the boat and knew that he was overpaying.

To maintain his relationship with Cunningham, Kontogiannis helped him financially. In late 2001, for instance, Kontogiannis financed the purchase of Cunningham's $350,000 condo, and paid $600,000 for his aging yacht, the Kelly C - $400,000 above what Cunningham had paid four years before.

In November 2003, Kontogiannis helped finance the purchase of Cunningham's house in Rancho Santa Fe, after Wade bought his home in Del Mar at an inflated price, roughly $700,000 above market value. Wade and Cunningham have both admitted that the home deal was part of a scheme to provide Cunningham with illicit favors in return for government contracts.

In his guilty plea, Kontogiannis said he believed Cunningham was buying the Rancho Santa Fe house with illegal proceeds, but he nevertheless directed Michael to provide $1.1 million in financing through Coastal Capital.

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Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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