Ex-Contractor Gets 21/2 Years in Prison In Cunningham Case

Mitchell J. Wade pleaded guilty in February 2006 to bribing a GOP congressman over three years.
Mitchell J. Wade pleaded guilty in February 2006 to bribing a GOP congressman over three years. (Susan Walsh - AP)
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By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A former defense contractor who gave more than $1 million in gifts -- including cash, home furnishings, a Rolls-Royce and an antique commode -- to then-Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.) was sentenced yesterday to 2 1/2 years in federal prison.

Mitchell J. Wade pleaded guilty in February 2006 to bribing Cunningham over three years and giving nearly $80,000 in illegal campaign contributions to two other House members in the hopes of improving his business prospects. Wade also hired the son of a Defense Department official with oversight of a multimillion-dollar contract, prosecutors said.

Wade, who was ordered to pay a $250,000 fine, apologized, saying he "took full responsibility for the mistakes I have made."

U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina gave Wade, 45, a break in sentencing him to 2 1/2 years in prison. The D.C. resident had faced nine to 11 years under federal sentencing guidelines.

Urbina said Wade was remorseful, had accepted responsibility for his crimes and was active in his community. Wade also helped authorities investigating Cunningham, Urbina said, citing court documents filed by prosecutors.

Prosecutors called Wade's assistance "extraordinary," adding that he is still helping them "in a large and important corruption investigation" that they declined to identify.

In addition to talking to investigators more than 20 times and testifying at a corruption trial, Wade financed a search of Cunningham's yacht to find documents missed by federal agents. The search turned up Cunningham's infamous "bribe menu," a document listing his prices for favors.

Prosecutors said Wade was a key player in several brazen schemes that involved members of Congress and military contracting officials.

"It was a horrible, disgusting spree of corruption," said Howard R. Sklamberg, deputy chief of the fraud and public corruption section of the U.S. attorney's office in the District.

The most serious allegations dealt with Wade's interactions with Cunningham, who was sentenced in 2006 to more than eight years in prison for accepting $2.4 million in bribes from Wade and another defense contractor.

Wade was seeking help for MZM, a D.C.-based defense firm that he founded.

To get more business, prosecutors said, Wade bought Cunningham's California home at a hugely inflated price. Wade also reportedly gave the lawmaker a used Rolls-Royce, Persian rugs, antiques and a $140,000 yacht. The boat, which was renamed "Duke-Stir," was docked at the Capital Yacht Club "for his use and enjoyment," prosecutors said.

In total, prosecutors said, Wade gave about $1.8 million in cash and goods to Cunningham from late 2001 through mid-2005.

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