Mitch Wade's Sentence: 30 months

Mitch Wade, the defense contractor who bribed former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham and then helped to swiftly put the congressman behind bars, was sentenced to 30 months in prison today in return for the extraordinary assistance he provided the government. With time off for good behavior, Wade will serve about two years.

Prosecutors had sought four years in prison and a “significant fine” for the $1.8 million in cash, a yacht, a used Rolls-Royce, antiques and the purchase of the congressman’s Del Mar home for an inflated price. Wade’s attorneys had asked for a year of home detention.

Equally significant, Judge Ricardo Urbina ordered Wade to pay a $250,000 fine. That essentially allows Wade to keep much of the money he made bribing Cunningham, who used his positions on the powerful Defense appropriations subcommittee and the House intelligence committee to steer lucrative contracts to Wade’s firm, MZM Inc. Over three years, MZM was awarded more than $150 million in government contracts. In the end, taxpayers are stuck with the bill for Cunningham’s bribes.

Wade also made $78,000 in illegal campaign contributions to Reps. Harris and Goode. (Wade was fined $1 million by the Federal Election Commission, the second-largest fine in its history.) And he provided job offers and other goodies in the Defense Department to ensure favorable treatment for his company.

When his corruption was exposed by Copley News Service reporter Marcus Stern, Wade quickly became the government’s main informant. He was debriefed 23 times and provided a searchable, electronic database of 150,000 documents. It was Wade who handed over the most infamous evidence of Cunningham’s corruption — the “bribe menu.” Wade also testified at the bribery trial of his former boss, Poway defense contractor Brent Wilkes, the man who introduced him to Cunningham.

According to a sentencing memo filed by Wade’s attorneys says he also aided the government in its investigation of “at least five other members of Congress” under investigation for “corruption similar to that of Mr. Cunningham.”  Sources with knowledge of the investigation say these five include Sen. Dan Inouye (D-Hawaii), Rep. Allan Mollahan (D-W.Va.), Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), outgoing Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Va.), and former Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla).

The extent of his cooperation is reflected in Wade’s sentence, the lowest of any of the major figures caught in the Cunningham scandal. The former congressman is serving 100 months. Wilkes was convicted at trial and sentenced to 12 years. Thomas Kontogiannis was sentenced to eight years for laundering the congressman’s bribes.

Judge Urbina specifically commended Wade’s $2 million legal team at WilmerHale for their work on the case.


  1. Chris Brown

    I don’t understand why public corruptions crooks, like Cunningham et al, Stevens et al. Blago et al, aren’t charged and tried under the RICO act which provides for 20 years in prison and confiscation of the ill gotten gains.

    It seems to me that so called “white collar” criminals are far more amenable to deterrence than are crack head criminals.

  2. Joe Romano

    Well, at least it is over and he will spend a couple of years behind bars, even if it is Club Fed. I do believe however that Wade has pulled off the con of this short century. Mitch Wade has absolutely no regret for what he did other than the fact he got caught and when that was imminent he started singing like a canary.
    Also, I do not understand why Judge Urbina a) let Wade keep most of his illegally gotten millions and b) why he complemented Wade’s attorneys for doing a great job. I’m sorry to say that Wade will do his 2 years and then live the life of luxury for the rest of his life with dirty money and a smile on his face.
    A sad commentary of our legal system.

  3. Scott Rubin

    30 months – why, Mitch can do that standing on his head. Maybe there will be tennis and softball games where he’s sent. Maybe with good behavior, he can even smoke cigars and get daily copies of the Wall Street Journal.

    Was he remanded directly into custody, or will he have time to watch The Shawshank Redemption before the Man takes him away, I wonder?

  4. Scott Rubin

    Seth, was he remanded directly to custody, or will he get a prison reporting date sometime later? I need to plan my trip to visit him accordingly, and see how the chubby fella is doing. I’m sure that Chuck Colson will be praying for him, or whatever religious story that Mitch will make up that he’ll say has “saved” his soul. Somehow those stories always find a way out.

    Will you be following up on how Mitch progresses making pencils or whatever other sundry tasks they ask Federal Prisoners to do?

  5. Cynthia Bruno Wynkoop

    What a sad state of affairs! I have believed since shortly after meeting him that Mitch suffers from serious character flaws and possibly diagnosable psychological condition(s). He truly has no concern for anyone but himself as evidenced by both the acts he willingly committed and his level of cooperation once caught. Even though I believe Mitch is sick rather than wicked I have little sympathy for him – his outright abuse of and disregard for others makes it difficult to find much redeeming in him. I feel so sad, however, for all of those he hurt and mostly his lovely ex-wife and children from two marriages. He will undoubtedly return to society unchanged after some number of months, but no amount of incarceration nor any monetary fine makes up for the huge void he creates in the lives of those who love/d him. To me the punishment feels very unfulfilling because it does not address the real harm – but then again nothing could. It is a story with no happy ending on so many levels…

  6. Seth Hettena

    Scott: Wade isn’t reporting directly to prison. He’s allowed to “voluntarily surrender when notified by the probation department.” He’s free on bond in the meantime.

  7. Brian Morris

    What a loser. I am just glad I resigned in 2002 when I figured out that he and his right hand man were crooks. I hope he enjoys being someone’s bitch in prison.

  8. brian morris

    I worked for MZM and left after 6 months in the summer of 2002. It was the best decision I ever made and probably saved my law license. I took alot of shit at the time from Wade, King, and company and ended up having to deploy to Bosnia to earn a paycheck but I’m so glad that my character and integrity don’t have a price. I could have gotten a large raise, condo, and other refreshments to stay but took the high road instead.

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