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Brent Roger Wilkes (born May 21, 1954), an American defense contractor. Wilkes became well known for his involvement with the Duke Cunningham defense contracting scandal and was indicted for his involvement in this scandal on February 13, 2007. He was indicted on new charges which superseded the previous ones on May 10, 2007. Wilkes was convicted on all 13 counts on November 5, 2007. In November, 2008, after serving 6 months at Federal Correctional Institution, Terminal Islandmarker, Wilkes was released, pending appeal.

Personal and business

Wilkes grew in a San Diego suburb, Chula Vista,marker and graduated from San Diego State Universitymarker in 1977 after studying accounting. He then became a CPA while working for Touche Ross, an international public accounting firm, in San Diego. Later, he went to work for a Southern California software company that was seeking federal contracts for converting paper documents to digital ones. He was George W. Bush's finance co-chairman in Californiamarker, and also involved in Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign for governor. But it was as a federal contractor that he became involved with the Duke Cunningham bribery scandal, and other defense contractor corruption.Wilkes lives in Poway, Californiamarker.

Corruption allegations

Involvement with the Cunningham Scandal

As The Washington Post put it, "Wilkes was an obscure California contractor and lobbyist until his name surfaced last year as one of two defense contractors alleged to have given Cunningham $2.4 million in cash and other benefits in return for Cunningham's steering government business their way. One of Wilkes's companies received more than $80 million in Pentagonmarker contracts over the past decade that stemmed from earmarks that Cunningham slipped into spending bills." Earmarks Became Contractor's Business Charles R. Babcock, Washington Post, February 20, 2006

Benefits to Wilkes

In 1995 Wilkes started ADCS Inc., or "Automated Document Conversion Systems." With Cunningham's help, he began winning contracts from the Pentagon. Wilkes got a $1 million Pentagon contract in 1997, which Cunningham proclaimed "an asset" to San Diego. In 1999, ADCS, Inc. was awarded a $9.7 million contract to convert documents related to the Panama Canal Zonemarker. Subsequently, the company began collecting more than $20 million a year in defense business."

The military never asked for the ADCS projects. In 2000, a report by the Pentagon's inspector general said of the company's biggest project, a $9.7 million contract to convert documents in Panama, that the program was created under pressure from two congressmen. Pentagon procurement officials identified the two as Cunningham and Duncan Hunter (R-Calif), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, to whom Wilkes had also donated heavily.

Favors from Wilkes

In return, Wilkes rented hospitality suites at the Watergate Hotelmarker and at the Westin Grand Hotel for Cunningham and other legislators and their guests. Wilkes hired Shirlington Limousine & Transportation Service of Virginiamarker beginning in 1990 for entertainment at the Watergate Hotel. In 2005, the Department of Homeland Securitymarker granted Shirlington a $21 million contract. According to reports in the Wall Street Journal and the San Diego Union-Tribune, prostitutes regularly accompanied guests at the suites. Allegedly, admitted Cunningham briber Mitchell Wade told prosecutors that Wilkes had set up a prostitution ring through Shirlington and would procure prostitutes for Cunningham on demand.

Criminal proceedings

On November 28, 2005 Cunningham pled guilty, and on March 3, 2006, U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns sentenced Cunningham to 100 months (eight years and four months) in prison, the longest ever given to a former member of Congress. The plea agreement mentioned four co-conspirators along with Cunningham: Wilkes, Mitchell Wade; New York businessman Thomas Kontogiannis (whom United States Coast Guard records show was involved in a questionable boat deal with Cunningham); and John T. Michael, Kontogiannis' nephew. The nephew is the owner of a New York-based mortgage company Coastal Capital Corp. Property records show the company made $1.15 million in real estate loans to Cunningham, two of which were used in the purchase of his Rancho Santa Femarker mansion. Court records show that Wade paid off one of those loans.

On February 13, 2007 Wilkes and Foggo were indicted on ten charges of conspiracy. In addition, Wilkes was indicted on charges of conspiracy, bribery, money laundering and unlawful monetary transactions to Cunningham in return for government contracts.

On May 10, 2007 Wilkes, Foggo, and Michael were indicted on new charges which superseded the previous indictments. Wilkes and Foggo were charged with thirty counts of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering. In addition Michael was added to the indictment against Wilkes for bribing Cunningham.

On November 5, 2007 Wilkes was convicted of 13 felonies for bribing former congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham with expensive meals, trips, a yacht and mortgage payments for his Rancho Santa Fe mansion in exchange for lucrative government defense contracts.

On January 21, 2008 Federal Probation Officials recommended a 60 year sentence. Wilkes was scheduled to be sentenced on January 21st, but that has been put off until February 19th at the request of his lawyer, Mark Geragos. In court papers, Geragos said he needed more time to analyze and challenge the report from the federal probation office, which he received January 15th – later than required under court rules.

On February 19, 2008 Wilkes was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison, a term much shorter than the sentence recommended by the prosecution.

PerfectWave involvement with other Congressmen

After the release of the Pentagon report which criticized ADCS, Wilkes and a business associate, Max Gelwix, established PerfectWave Technologies LLC, which was trying to perfect a way to delete background noise from radio communications. PerfectWave and ADCS, plus Wilkes himself, owned a company called Group W Advisers, which sought government contracts and earmarks in defense appropriations bills.

DeLay and Doolittle

Effective as of April 1, 2002, Group W Advisers hired the Alexander Strategy Group, a lobby group run by Ed Buckham, the former chief of staff and spiritual advisor to then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and Tony Rudy, DeLay's former deputy chief of staff. (DeLay's wife, Christine, was working at the firm's office at the time. So was Representative John Doolittle's wife, Julie.) Wilkes and his friends donated heavily to DeLay, Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Doolittle (R-Calif.). For example, by mid-April 2002, Wilkes, his executives and ADCS had donated $45,000 to ARMPAC so one of their executives could play golf with DeLay, Federal Election Commission records show.

Doolittle acknowledges steering money to PerfectWave but denies doing anything wrong. In a statement last month, he said his backing for PerfectWave was "based solely on the project's merits and the written support of the military.' But the only evidence Doolittle's office could provide to show military support for the project was a letter of praise from Robert Lusardi, a program manager for light armored vehicles at the Marine Corps dated February 25 – two and a half years after PerfectWave got its first earmark. By the time Lusardi wrote his letter, the company had received at least $37 million in earmarks."

Representative Lewis

Wilkes also hired the lobbying firm of Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White, where former U.S. Congressman Bill Lowery was a partner from 1993 to 2006. Lowery was close friends with Congressman Jerry Lewis .

Since 1993, Wilkes and his associates gave Lewis $88,000 in contributions; Lewis subsequently gave $56,000 of that to Habitat for Humanity. Wilkes paid Copeland Lowery at least $385,000 in fees; by 2005, the firm's fees had increased to $25,000 a month.

In January 1999, Lewis became chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. In January 2005 he became chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

In an August 2006 interview, Wilkes said he considered dropping the firm, but that Lowery threatened to block future projects if their relationship ended. Wilkes said Lowery had warned several times that doing so could prompt Lewis to cut off earmarks, saying, “You don’t want me telling those guys on the committee that you are moving on without me.” That meant, Wilkes said, "I’d be out of business."

In early 2006, Lewis has said that he barely knew Wilkes and that he did not remember seeing him in nearly a decade. But Wilkes says their relationship was closer than that. Ever since they went on a scuba-diving trip together in 1993, he said, Lewis had referred to him as his "diving buddy." They occasionally dined together or met at political functions, Wilkes said. At a Las Vegas fund-raiser in April 2005, Wilkes said, Lewis greeted him as "Brento" and hugged him as Wilkes surprised Lewis with $25,000 in campaign contributions.

Current status

PerfectWave and Wilkes are still under investigation, as is Lewis.

Involvement with the CIA

In March 2006 the CIA announced that it was investigating the connection between Wilkes and the agency's No. 3 official, Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, and whether Foggo helped Wilkes gain CIA contracts. By May, it was reported the FBImarker was also investigating. The reports were confirmed by a May 12, 2006 raid on his Vienna, Virginiamarker home.

Foggo and Wilkes attended school together at Hilltop High Schoolmarker in Chula Vistamarker and San Diego State Universitymarker, served as best men in each other's weddings, named their sons after each other, and shared a wine locker at the Capital Grille in Washington D.C.marker, a favorite lobbyists' retreat.

Speaking on CNN, former Congressman Bob Barr (R-GA) suggested the corruption scandal as a possible reason behind CIA director Porter Goss's resignation.

In May, the day after Goss' resignation, New York Daily News reported
The investigations have focused on the Watergate poker parties thrown by defense contractor Brent Wilkes, a high-school buddy of Foggo's, that were attended by disgraced former Rep. Randy (Duke) Cunningham and other lawmakers.

Foggo has claimed he went to the parties "just for poker" amid allegations that Wilkes, a top GOP fund-raiser and a member of the $100,000 "Pioneers" of Bush's 2004 reelection campaign, provided prostitutes, limos and hotel suites to Cunningham....

Wilkes hosted regular parties for 15 years at the Watergate and Westin Grand Hotels for lawmakers and lobbyists. Intelligence sources said Goss has denied attending the parties as CIA director, but that left open whether he may have attended as a Republican congressman from Florida who was head of the House Intelligence Committee.


Connections to Tom DeLay money laundering case

AP reported that "Wilkes has been subpoenaed in the money-laundering case against former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas. Prosecutors want to hear from Wilkes about a contribution to a DeLay fundraising committee at the center of the investigation that led to indictments that pushed the GOP leader from office". Additionally, as noted above, Wilkes' company, Group W Advisers, hired the Alexander Strategy Group that employed DeLay's wife to lobby for acoustic technology for the Navy.

Illegal contributions in Mayoral race

In November 2005, the California state's watchdog agency, the Fair Political Practices Commission, filed a complaint against Wilkes. The substance of the complaint is that Wilkes attempted to circumvent San Diego's limit on individual campaign contributions with "straw contributions" (i.e., reimbursing others for their contributions). The complaint noted that 22 of his employees as ADCS or relatives of his employees gave $250 each to the 2002 San Diegomarker mayoral campaign of Ron Roberts. The complaint was not released until July 2006 after receiving a public-records act request.

References

  1. The power of persuasion, Dean Calbreath, San Diego Union-Tribune, February 5, 2006
  2. name="watergate">Wilkes's Hospitality Suites * Contractor 'knew how to grease the wheels' Dean Calbreath and Jerry Kammer, San Diego Union-Tribune, December 4, 2005 * Co-conspirator's possible links to prostitutes eyed Dean Calbreath, San Diego Union-Tribune, April 28, 2006 * [1] The Wall Street Journal April 27, 2006
  3. Kammer, Jerry, "A steady flow of financial influence: Close ties make Rep. Lewis, lobbyist Lowery a potent pair",Copely News Service, December 23, 2005.
  4. Claire Vitucci, Michelle DeArmond, and Richard K. De Atley, "Lewis denies knowing of ethics investigation", Press-Enterprise, May 12, 2006
  5. George Watson and Andrew Edwards, "Lewis denies report that he was being investigated", Redlands Daily Facts, May 12, 2006
  6. Smith, R. Jeffrey, "Lobbying Firm Underreported Income: Some Clients Paid With Public or Tax-Exempt Funds in Bids for 'Earmarks'", Washington Post, July 6, 2006, p. A04. Retrieved on July 6, 2006
  7. David Johnson and David D. Kirkpatrick, "Washington Deal Maker Details Palm Greasing", New York Times, August 6, 2006

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