Saturday, September 24, 2005

Don't Lock Your Doors

If you have every done business with Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, I have a bit of advice for you: Don't lock your doors. The feds will just kick them in.

Thursday, federal agents (FBI, IRS, DCIS) raided the home and offices of another of Duke's "business partners", Thomas Kontogiannis. If you have your scandal scorecard handy you will see that Kontogiannis is the guy who bought Cunningham's yacht, the Kelly C, for a price that was perhaps as much as three times the value of the boat. Ultimately, half a million of that money went to pay off a loan, arranged by Kontogiannis through a family mortgage business, for Cunningham's Rancho Santa Fe mansion. Yes, the same mansion upon which the Feds have placed a lien contending that it was purchased in part with the proceeds from a $700,000 bribe paid Cunningham by another businessman, whose home and office were raided in July 1st.

Of all of the Duke's financial adventures, his relationship with Kontogiannis is the most unusual. After all, both MZM and ADCS (and their owners Mitchell Wade and Brent Wilkes), previously raided by agents investigating Cunningham, had business before one of Cunningham's committees. Yet, Duke's involvement with Kontogiannis doesn't appear to fit that pattern. According to the North County Times:

"In 2000, Kontogiannis was under investigation for bribery involving school computer contracts for a New York school district, according to news reports.

Cunningham wrote a letter to the Queens, N.Y., district attorney suggesting that Kontogiannis might be the victim of a political vendetta, according to news reports. Kontogiannis was later indicted and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of defrauding in the second degree and agreed to pay a $5 million settlement in the case, according to a July story published in the Washington Post.

Around the same time, Kontogiannis sought Cunningham's advice on seeking a pardon from President George W. Bush, Kontogiannis told reporters in July. He said that Cunningham then steered him to a Washington law firm that he could talk to about the matter.

Since that time, business dealings between the two men included the New York man's purchase of a 65-foot boat owned by Cunningham and three real estate loans that Cunningham received from a company connected to Kontogiannis.

On July 9, Kontogiannis said that in 2002 he purchased Cunningham's 65-foot flat-bottomed boat, the "Kelly C" for $627,000. A San Diego yacht broker recently said he believed the boat was probably not worth more than $200,000."

The primary thing that Cunningham's relationship with Kontogiannis has in common with his other dealings is that, in every case, Cunningham made large sums of money.

I'll ask the same question I always ask at the end of a Cunningham post: Why is this man still in the Congress of the United States?