Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Duke Must Go!

New Revelations Regarding
Cunningham and Kontogiannis

When news of one questionable deal after another was breaking around Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, the relationship between Cunningham and New York businessman, Thomas T. Kontogiannis, seemed to come somewhat out of the blue. Kontogiannis you might recall bought, or maybe just pretended to buy, Cunningham's boat, the Kelly C. You can read up on the background to that deal here and here. In addition to the boat deal that netted Cunningham a $400,000 profit, a company owned by Kontogiannis' daughter provided Cunningham with at least three mortgage loans at wholesale rates.

Today the Washington Post reports that Cunningham's connection with Kontogiannis stretches back to 2000, well before his current boat and home mortgage dealings. Apparently, Cunningham, who offered to help Kontogiannis get a president pardon after his bribery and fraud conviction, was involved in an attempt to influence the original investigation that led to that conviction.

"Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham wrote to a prosecutor in Queens in 2000 on behalf of a New York developer who was then under investigation for bribing a school superintendent to get a computer contract. The businessman, Thomas T. Kontogiannis, later bought the California Republican's boat and helped finance his new home.

Nicole Navas, a spokeswoman for Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, said that the Oct. 19 letter on Cunningham's congressional stationery was faxed to prosecutors handling the bribery probe but that Brown's office did not act on it further because it concerned an active grand jury investigation.

Kontogiannis was indicted along with the school superintendent a few weeks later. He pleaded guilty to a scheme to defraud in the second degree, a misdemeanor, and agreed to pay nearly $5 million to settle the bid-rigging case. Navas declined to provide a copy of the letter."

How is it that the Congressional representative for the California 50th District gets involved in trying to influence a fraud investigation in the New York state court? What is the link between Cunningham and Kontogiannis and what led a California Congressman to try to leverage an investigation of Kontogiannis in 2000?