Report: ‘Duke’ investigated on link to prostitutes

NORTH COUNTY —- In a salacious twist, the Wall Street Journal on Thursday reported that federal investigators are probing allegations that Poway defense contractor Brent Wilkes arranged prostitutes, hotel suites and limousine rides for disgraced former Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham.

Quoting unnamed federal sources, the Journal story also said that investigators are examining the possibility that other congressmen and members of their staffs may have availed themselves of the prostitutes.

Meanwhile, the House Armed Services Committee reported Thursday that an initial review of its records showed no improprieties by Cunningham in influencing that committee’s decisions on defense contracts.

According to the Journal article, federal investigators are looking into whether Wilkes and former Washington defense contractor Mitchell Wade provided the 50th District Republican with the illicit services at Washington’s infamous Watergate Hotel and at one other site, and that federal agents removed room records and other documents from the hotel.

Wade has pleaded guilty to bribing Cunningham and faces up to 11 years in prison.

Wilkes has been identified by sources close to the investigation as the other defense contractor who allegedly bribed Cunningham.

Michael Lipman, Wilkes’ San Diego-based attorney, could not be reached for comment Thursday but was quoted in the Journal as denying the liaisons occurred.

Cunningham’s Washington attorney K. Lee Blalack and Wade’s attorney Reg Brown declined comment Thursday, as did the U.S. attorney’s office in San Diego when asked to comment on the Journal report.

In February, Wade went before a federal judge in Washington and pleaded guilty to bribing Cunningham with more than $1 million to secure lucrative defense contracts for his firm, MZM Inc.

In August, agents with the FBI, the Pentagon’s Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the IRS raided Wilkes’ Poway home and the offices of his company ADCS Inc.

In March, Cunningham was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Larry Alan Burns in San Diego to eight years, four months in federal prison for taking more than $2.4 million in bribes and cheating on his taxes. He is imprisoned in North Carolina undergoing mental and physical evaluation.

Reached by telephone, an official with the Watergate Hotel refused to address the Journal’s allegations.

After reading the story, the Sacramento-based watchdog organization called on any elected officials with ties to Wade and Wilkes to declare if they had any knowledge of what the Journal reported.

"We call on all those elected officials with ties to Brent Wilkes and Mitch Wade to come clean about whether Wade and Wilkes procured ‘in any fashion’ sexual partners on their behalf … particularly those members among the top recipients of campaign contributions from these men," TheRestofUs spokesman Ned Wigglesworth said in a prepared statement.

Calling itself nonpartisan, the organization works at "exposing the role of big money in politics," it states on its Web site. Wigglesworth said that the group focuses on wrongdoing by any elected official, regardless of political affiliation.

In a related matter, the House Armed Services Committee reviews of committee actions in 2004 and 2005 did not disclose any improper influencing of its staffers by Cunningham in the awarding of contracts.

"No improprieties were found," said spokesman Josh Hunter.

Cunningham has admitted funneling contracts to the co-conspirators through his role on a different panel, the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

The Armed Services Committee’s review is far from over, however, as staffers have been asked to research the panel’s records stretching back to 1991, the first year Cunningham took office.

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