Mitch Wade, the defense contractor who bribed former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham and then helped to swiftly put the congressman behind bars, was sentenced to 30 months in prison today in return for the extraordinary assistance he provided the government. With time off for good behavior, Wade will serve about two years in prison.

Prosecutors had sought four years in prison and a “significant fine” for the $1.8 million in cash, a yacht, a used Rolls-Royce, antiques and the purchase of the congressman’s Del Mar home for an inflated price. Wade’s attorneys had asked for a year of home detention.

Equally significant, Judge Ricardo Urbina ordered Wade to pay a $250,000 fine. That essentially allows Wade to keep much of the money he made bribing Cunningham, who used his positions on the powerful Defense appropriations subcommittee and the House intelligence committee to steer lucrative contracts to Wade’s firm, MZM Inc. Over three years, MZM was awarded more than $150 million in government contracts. In the end, taxpayers are stuck with the bill for Cunningham’s bribes.

Wade also made $78,000 in illegal campaign contributions to Reps. Katherine Harris and Virgil Goode. (Wade was fined $1 million by the Federal Election Commission, the second-largest fine in its history.) And he provided job offers and other goodies in the Defense Department to ensure favorable treatment for his company.

When his corruption was exposed by Copley News Service reporter Marcus Stern, Wade quickly became the government’s main informant. He was debriefed 23 times and provided a searchable, electronic database of 150,000 documents. It was Wade who handed over the most infamous evidence of Cunningham’s corruption — the “bribe menu.” Wade also testified at the bribery trial of his former boss, Poway defense contractor Brent Wilkes, the man who introduced him to Cunningham.

A sentencing memo filed by Wade’s attorneys says he also aided the government in its investigation of “at least five other members of Congress” under investigation for “corruption similar to that of Mr. Cunningham.” Sources with knowledge of the investigation say these five include Sen. Dan Inouye, D-Hawaii; Rep. Allan Mollahan, D-W.Va.; Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif.; outgoing Rep. Goode, R-Va.; and former Rep. Harris, R-Fla.

Wade also authored a letter to the judge in which he admitted to having “lost sight of the concepts of integrity and fair play and began to cut corners.”

The extent of his cooperation is reflected in Wade’s sentence, the lowest of any of the major figures caught in the Cunningham scandal. The former congressman is serving 100 months. Wilkes was convicted at trial and sentenced to 12 years. Thomas Kontogiannis was sentenced to eight years for laundering the congressman’s bribes.

Judge Urbina specifically commended Wade’s $2 million legal team at WilmerHale for their work on the case.


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