Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Carol Lam Leaves Indictments in the Wake of Her Departure

Former CIA executive director Kyle Dusty Foggo and defense contractor Brent Wilkes were charged this week with conspiracy, fraud and money laundering in the largest corruption case in congressional hi

Former CIA executive director Kyle Dusty Foggo and defense contractor Brent Wilkes were charged this week with conspiracy, fraud and money laundering in the largest corruption case in congressional history. Foggo is accused of using his post at the agency to steer contracts to his longtime friend Wilkes in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars in gifts, meals and trips including a $60,000 trip to a Scottish castle. The indictments are a last hurrah of sorts for San Diego U.S. Attorney Carol Lam. She served her last day this week. KPBS reporter Amita Sharma has more. Prosecutors say the two men, who grew up together in Chula Vista, sometimes used shell companies to conceal the fraud. Wilkes was also indicted on separate conspiracy, fraud and bribery charges stemming from his contacts with ex-Congressman Cunningham. Here's how former U.S. Attorney Carol Lam described the alleged crimes.

Carol Lam: Brent Wilkes is charged with engaging in a pattern of bribery of former Congressman Randy Duke Cunningham that was breathtaking in scope. The indictment described bribes from Wilkes that took the form of cash, furniture, meals, corporate jet travel, boats, and various forms of entertainment totaling more than $700,000.

Some of that entertainment included $500-a-night prostitutes for Cunningham. Prosecutors say that in return Cunningham used his public office to help Wilkes' Poway company ADCS win more than $100 million in contracts over nearly 10 years. Cunningham is serving an eight-year prison sentence in Tucson after he admitted taking bribes and evading taxes. But admissions of guilt aren't likely from Wilkes and Foggo. On Tuesday, the two men entered not guilty pleas. Federal prosecutor Phil Halpern says the government will also seek to take back at least some taxpayer money from Wilkes including potential assets in foreign bank accounts.

Advertisement

Phil Halpern: We have included an account that seeks the return of over $12 million illegally gained profits from Mr. Wilkes and one of his co-conspirators. If in fact, guilty verdicts are returned in this case, that money will be available whether it comes from Aldous properties or elsewhere.

But Wilkes remains unbowed. In a written statement, Wilkes said he is battered but not broken. He denied paying bribes to Cunningham and referred to alleged co-conspirator Foggo as a brother and honest public servant. Wilkes accused prosecutors of a witch hunt and said the indictments against him and his friend were "rushed to the press 48 hours" before Lam's forced departure. Lam announced her resignation last month after being asked by the White House to step down. Lam denied the indictments were timed to coincide with her exit.

Lam: I'm sure there's going to be a lot of speculation about the timing of this. I will say this unequivocally – right now that there's been no change in the timing of these indictments. Based on recent events, there has been no change. The only factors that went into the timing of this indictment was the evidence in the case and the propriety of bringing the charges as evaluated by the grand jury.

Justice department officials have hinted that Lam was asked to resign because she did not prosecute enough border crime cases. Democrats have accused the Bush administration of ousting Lam in retaliation for her pursuit of the Cunningham investigation to wherever it might lead – be it the CIA or to other members of Congress. Her office has subpoenaed documents from three powerful House committees. When asked whether the investigation would continue after her departure she had this to say:

Lam: I'm neither a soothsayer, nor a fortune teller but I expect the Department of Justice will conduct itself as the department always has and as professionally and in the public's interest.

Advertisement

And even though Lam is no longer the U.S. attorney in San Diego, she's not unemployed. She begins work as in-house counsel for Qualcomm later this month.