SAN DIEGO CONVICT IN RANDY "DUKE" CUNNINGHAM CASE MAY GO BACK TO JAIL
Reprinted from the San Diego Union Tribune
By Greg Moran
September 15, 2007
DOWNTOWN SAN DIEGO – A New York financier who admitted a role in the Randy “Duke” Cunningham scandal has been ordered into court Monday to explain why he shouldn't be thrown in jail for vacationing in Greece while out on bond.
Judge Larry A. Burns issued the order Thursday for Thomas Kontogiannis, a key figure in the bribery case of former Congressman Cunningham.
Kontogiannis pleaded guilty to a single count of money laundering and is believed to be cooperating with the government on other investigations. His guilty plea was done in secret in February and not publicized until June. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, but no sentencing date has been set.
According to the terms of his release on bond, Kontogiannis was supposed to surrender his passport and would be allowed to travel only with federal agents or with their approval.
The order says that Burns learned from “reliable sources” that Kontogiannis had traveled outside the United States, violating the conditions of release and the travel restrictions placed on him when he posted $1.5 million bond in February.
In a hearing last month, a lawyer for Kontogiannis' nephew, who is to go on trial in two weeks, told Burns that he had learned Kontogiannis was on a trip with his family in Greece.
The lawyer, Raymond Granger, said he had read a report in The North County Times, which described how a reporter tracked Kontogiannis to an Athens hotel and spoke to him by phone.
Gregory O'Connell, Kontogiannis' lawyer in New York, did not return a phone message yesterday afternoon seeking comment on the order and Kontogiannis' trip.
Cunningham, a former Republican congressman, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion after admitting to accepting $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors. He was sentenced to eight years and four months in federal prison.
Cunningham is being held at the federal jail in San Diego, pending the trial of Brent Wilkes and John Michael, Kontogiannis' nephew.
Another portion of the form detailing the conditions of release restricts Kontogiannis' travel to the United States and “other” places, with a handwritten notation next to “other” that reads “w/permission of agents.”
Portions of transcripts of four hearings relating to Kontogiannis' plea remain secret and are the subject of a case pending before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Much of the case has been conducted in secret and under seal.
The Copley Press Inc., publisher of The San Diego Union-Tribune, is pressing for release of all the transcripts.
Kontogiannis pleaded guilty to providing $1.1 million in mortgages for Cunningham's Rancho Santa Fe mansion, knowing the property was brought with proceeds from illegal activity.
Michael is set to go to trial Oct. 2 on charges including conspiracy, money laundering and obstruction of justice. He will be tried with Wilkes, a Poway defense contractor, who is alleged to have bribed Cunningham in exchange for defense contracts. Wilkes faces numerous charges in connection with the case.