Defense Contractor Sentenced to 12 Years in Prison for Bribing Congressman

A defense contractor was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison Tuesday for bribing former U.S. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham with cash, meals, trips and other gifts in exchange for nearly $90 million in Pentagon work.

Brent Wilkes, 53, showed no emotion as U.S. District Judge Larry Burns delivered the sentence.

Federal probation officials recommended a 60-year prison sentence for Wilkes, who was convicted by a jury 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 — everything from cash to submachine gun shooting lessons and the services of prostitutes during a stay at a Hawaiian resort.

In return, they said, Cunningham helped Wilkes secure $87 million in Pentagon contracts, mainly for scanning paper documents.

Cunningham, an eight-term Republican congressman and Vietnam War flying ace, is serving eight years, four months in federal prison. He 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 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 a company he owned, ADCS Inc., a data and document storage company based in Poway, near San Diego.

"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.