Skip to comments.Probation for minor figure in bribe case (linked to Cunningham scandal
Posted on 10/03/2008 10:12:57 AM PDT by NormsRevenge
FEDERAL COURT A peripheral figure in the bribery scandal that ensnared former Rep. Randy Duke Cunningham was sentenced to five years' probation by a San Diego federal judge yesterday, bringing the three-year-old case closer to finality.
Advertisement John Thomas Michael, a mortgage broker from Long Island, sighed deeply and closed his eyes when U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns said he would not be going to prison. As part of his probation, Michael will have to perform 1,000 hours of community service and pay a fine of $100,000.
Michael pleaded guilty in February to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and to a second count of lying about it to a grand jury probing the web of relationships that tied Cunningham and five other people in what has been called the biggest congressional bribery scandal in history.
In late 2004, Michael processed a $525,000 mortgage that was a key component of a larger money-laundering plan intended to hide the fact that the funds were a bribe to Cunningham from Poway defense contractor Brent Wilkes.
The bribe was used by the then-congressman to help purchase a Rancho Santa Fe mansion. Wilkes was convicted of plying Cunningham with bribes in exchange for his efforts to get lucrative defense contracts for Wilkes's Poway company.
Burns noted that Michael was the least culpable of the defendants, a view federal prosecutors did not quarrel with. Burns said Michael's involvement came late in the scheme; he did not profit from it; and he was essentially pressured into processing the mortgage by his uncle, Thomas Kontogiannis.
Kontogiannis orchestrated the loan scheme and had a history of fraudulent mortgage activities. Burns said that while Michael was aware of that, he did not know that particular mortgage was for Cunningham, or part of the larger bribery scheme.
The judge rebuked Michael for lying to the grand jury, but noted that Michael's once promising mortgage company is defunct and he stands convicted of two felonies.
Sending him to jail would not accomplish much more, the judge said. I have a feeling Mr. Michael has learned his lesson from all this, Burns said.
Prosecutors also filed a letter, which is under seal, attesting that Michael had cooperated substantially in an active investigation, believed to be into the mortgage-fraud activities of his uncle, Kontogiannis.
Before he was sentenced, an emotional Michael told Burns that he took responsibility for his actions. Michael asked for a second chance and vowed that Burns would not regret giving it to him.
The sentence was the second development this week in the prosecutions stemming from the Cunningham investigation. On Monday in Virginia, Kyle Dusty Foggo, a former executive director of the Central Intelligence Agency, pleaded guilty to fraud.
His indictment grew out of the investigation into Wilkes, Cunningham and the others.
Randy Duke Cunningham: Former Republican congressman pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion charges and is serving an eight-year, four-month sentence in federal prison in Arizona.
Brent Wilkes: Former defense contractor was convicted of bribing Cunningham and sentenced to 12 years in prison. Court ruled he could be free on bond while awaiting the outcome of his appeal, but he has been unable to come up with the bail amount. He is in prison in Los Angeles.
Thomas Kontogiannis: Financier was sentenced to eight years and one month in prison after pleading guilty to money laundering. He is being held in Massachusetts.
Kyle Dusty Foggo: Former CIA official and friend of Wilkes pleaded guilty this week to fraud. His sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 8.
Mitchell Wade: Former defense contractor pleaded guilty to bribing Cunningham and cooperated with the government. He is awaiting sentencing.
I know “Dusty”. Worked with him for a short time. Had no idea he was a big wheel and was in trouble. BLEW MY MIND!!!!! when I found out. A beefy, jocular guy, always laughing.