Category: Randy “Duke” Cunningham

Brent "The Enigma" Wilkes surfaces in attack ad

Free on bond, Brent “The Enigma” Wilkes is spending time at the poker table these days, but his scandalous past is featured in a new attack ad in Missouri’s Senate race.

Wilkes is referred to in the ad by Missouri Democrat Robin Carnahan he “defense contractor convicted of bribery” who provided private jet trips for her GOP opponent, Rep. Roy Blunt, the former House whip.

PoliticMo.com has the story here:

“One of the examples we touch on in the ad is the example of Brent Wilkes, the California defense contractor and lobbyist,” said Mindy Mazur, campaign manager for Robin Carnahan, in a conference call with journalists Wednesday. “Blunt – while he was there – helped whip the vote in favor of one of his companies.”

Mazur says, “Eight days later, Congressman Blunt received $14,000 from people associated with Brent Wilkes.”

While she says “he spent over 100,000 in legal fees related to the Wilkes case,” Mazur wasn’t sure if he had actually done anything illegal. “I would have to say the more we’ve learned about what congressman blunt’s been up to in washington, the more we’ve asked the same question [of legality].”

Wilkes was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2008 following his conviction on charges of bribery, money laundering and fraud. He was freed while his case is being appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Enigma Impresses the Poker World

Poker writer Peter Sharkey is impressed by Brent “The Enigma” Wilkes’ power of concentration at the card table:

Brent Wilkes should exploit a gap in the market – for poker players’ benefit

Just how good are you at blanking everything out and concentrating fully upon your poker?

The level of concentration necessary to be successful is startling as you need to keep a constant eye on how play progresses and how individuals react to winning as well as to defeat. If you’re having problems away from the table and they begin to prey on your mind, it’s invariably curtains for your game.

Of course, there are short cuts to achieving a level of focus few other pursuits require. Switching on an mp3 player or donning those mirrored lens shades are two of the most popular – and effective, but there’s no substitute for heading to the felt with a clear mind.

So imagine you had been convicted for bribing a government official and received a 12-year prison sentence. That’s bad enough, but assume you’ve been free on bail for more than two years, pending an appeal against your sentence. Seems you would have your plate pretty full eh? And probably not much time to partake of a few hands of poker.

Not Mr Brent Wilkes, a 56 year-old former defence contractor who was convicted of conspiracy, bribery, money laundering and wire fraud in 2007. Mr Wilkes was freed from prison in February 2008 pending an appeal, which finally got under way on Monday.

Out on Bail, Brent "The Enigma" Wilkes Plays His Cards Right

Brent "The Enigma" Wilkes

A “58-year-old retiree” is how Ultimatepoker.com described Brent “the Enigma” Wilkes after he won $10,900 in a March No-Limit Hold-’em poker tournament at Harrah’s Rincon Casino.

Sporting his new chin strap, Wilkes is a self-described “former executive consultant who is now retired and is spending much of his time writing and playing poker,” Ultimatepoker.com tells us.

He’s also a former defense contractor who was convicted of bribing former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham with prostitutes, luxury vacations and other goodies.

Since he bailed out of prison while he appeals his conviction, The Enigma sure has been playing a lot of poker.

He made it to the finals at last year’s Rincon series, coming up just short of victory on each occasion.

Fans of the Randy “Duke” Cunningham scandal will recall that Wilkes was a life-long poker player. According to testimony at his trial, one of the ways Wilkes bribed Cunningham was by letting the old pilot win at poker.

Wilkes and his best friend, former CIA honcho Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, who’s now serving time in prison for fraud, hosted regular poker games at the Watergate Hotel that were the subject of much (mostly unfounded) speculation.

Ex-UT Veteran Edits A Second Pulitzer Story

If they gave out Pulitzers for editing, Susan White, who left The San Diego Union-Tribune in 2007, would have collected her second yesterday.

Susan White

White is now in New York at ProPublica, the online investigative site, where she edited Sheri Fink’s story that claimed a Pulitzer for investigative reporting. This is the first time an online site has won journalism’s top honor.

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Brent Wilkes, Master of Delay

The appeal of Brent Wilkes, who was convicted in 2007 of bribing former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, has been delayed again.

The former defense contractor remains free on $2 million bail.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said earlier this month that it won’t hear the appeal until the U.S. Supreme Court issues its rulings in the appeals of former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling and former Rep. Bruce Weyrauch.

Those cases involve the crime of depriving the public of the right to “honest services,” the same law federal prosecutors in San Diego used against Wilkes.

Wilkes’s briefing papers now are due before the 9th Circuit about a month after the Supreme Court issues its rulings in Skilling and Weyrauch. The earlier deadline was today.

With more arguing back and forth and the average wait of a year for a ruling from the court, it will be a long time before Wilkes sees the inside of prison again.

It’s a pretty sweet deal for Wilkes, who is being represented by the federal public defender’s office in San Diego.

Cunningham is due to be released in 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons website.

Amazingly, it’s looking increasingly likely that Duke may finish serving his sentence before Wilkes starts serving his.

Eric Massa's San Diego ties

The strange saga of former Rep. Eric J.J. Massa, now reportedly under investigation for allegedly groping male staffers, is being closely followed in San Diego’s Navy community.

His father, Emiddio “Mead” Massa and his father-in-law, Adolf “Jake” Jacobsen, are retired Navy captains. Eric married Jacobsen’s daughter, Beverly.

Eric Massa graduated in 1981 from the U.S. Naval Academy. He retired in 2003 when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

“Massa and his family moved to San Diego to be near his and Beverly’s parents, and he spent six months undergoing surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. They bought a one-story house because Massa had trouble walking up stairs,” Money magazine wrote in a 2006 profile.

Diagnosed as cancer-free, Massa decided to run for Congress in upstate New York. The couple sold the San Diego home and plowed the proceeds into Massa’s campaign, according to Money.

Former Rep. Charlie Wilson Dead at 76

First John Murtha. Now former Texas Rep. Charlie Wilson has died at 76.

The ethically-challenged Wilson was made famous by the excellent book by the late George Crile (and the movie) Charlie Wilson’s War, which revealed how he secretly supplied the funds for the CIA’s covert war in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

He appears a couple of times in my book, Feasting on the Spoils, most memorably in a a scene at a poker game at the Watergate Hotel. The Watergate was a home away from home for San Diego defense contractor Brent Wilkes and his CIA buddy, Kyle “Dusty” Foggo.

Wilkes and Foggo continued their long-standing tradition of weekly card games in Washington. Foggo would invite along friends from the CIA, and Wilkes would bring the congressmen. One of the congressional guests was Charlie Wilson, who had in 1993 received the CIA’s Honored Colleague Award, the first time it was ever awarded to anyone outside the agency. At one game, Wilson invited along his friend from Texas Joe Murray, a columnist for The Atlanta-Journal Constitution. Murray met Wilson in the hotel lobby. “I’m not sure how they chose the Watergate,” Murray wrote in a May 20, 1994 column, a few days after the poker game. “Perhaps because a sense of history. Either that or a sense of humor.”Murray followed Wilson into the suite, which was filled with cigar smoke. Wilson knew a few of the CIA personnel at the game. One was Brant Bassett, a well-regarded officer who spoke fluent Russian, German, and Hungarian. Bassett was known as Nine Fingers after a motorcycle accident had cost him a finger. Wilson brought gifts, a sack full of guns that included a Soviet automatic used by Russian paratroopers. Wilson had a special pen for everyone, one that with a click fired a .32-caliber bullet. Everyone in the room started clicking his pen.

“Boy, I wish I’d had it this afternoon,” someone said.

“If only Aldrich Ames were here.”

Murray and Wilson stayed only a short while, and as they were leaving, one of the agents offered Murry one of his cigars, a Dominican. Murray offered the agent one of his, a Cuban. The agent told him, “You know, of course, this is considered contraband. But you’ve done the right thing as a good citizen. You’ve turned it in to the proper authorities. Be assured that very shortly it will be destroyed by fire.”

Wilson insisted there was no hanky-panky the night he was there. “The only activities that took place there that would be considered illegal and unlawful was cigar smoking on a nonsmoking floor,” Wilson said. Cunningham was the only other congressman who ever attended the poker games, according to Wilkes.

The “hanky-panky” Wilson is referring to were the rumors that flew around Washington that congressmen were supplied with prostitutes at these games. The FBI never found any evidence of this (the government certainly would have used it against Wilkes if they had) but people still think it’s what happened anyway.

After my book came out, Wilkes’ nephew and right-hand man, Joel Combs, testified that Wilkes told his employees to lose to Duke at poker and he yelled at one man who wasn’t losing enough.

Wilkes was sentenced to 12 years for bribing Cunningham; Foggo is serving time in prison for steering CIA contracts to Wilkes.

As for Charlie Wilson, he didn’t remember Wilkes; Foggo, however, he remembered well when I interviewed him in 2006.

When I told Wilson that Foggo had a rather unsavory reputation, Wilson said that the CIA sometimes had need of people like that in the CIA to do the dirty work against the KGB. (Foggo was no James Bond, however; he was a logistics officer.)

Ah, well, I’m sorry Charlie is gone. He made Congress fun.