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Former CIA Official Pleads Not Guilty

  Breaking Legal News  -   POSTED: 2007/05/16 08:40

A former top CIA official pleaded not guilty Monday to new charges that he pushed a proposed government contract worth at least $100 million for his best friend in return for lavish vacations, private jet flights and a lucrative job offer. The indictment, returned last week, replaced charges brought in February against Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, who resigned from the spy agency a year ago, and defense contractor Brent Wilkes.

The charges grew from the bribery scandal that landed former U.S. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham in prison.

Foggo and Wilkes now face 30 wide-ranging counts of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering. Each faces more than 20 years in prison if convicted, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors claimed in their earlier 11-count indictment that in fall 2003, while he was working as a logistics officer at a CIA supply hub overseas, Foggo arranged a $1.7 million contract for one of Wilkes' companies to be a middleman in supplying bottled water to the agency.

The new indictment outlines a second scheme in which Foggo is suspected of providing Wilkes with "sensitive, internal information related to our national security," including classified information, to help him prepare bids for providing undercover flights for the CIA under the guise of a civil aviation company and armored vehicles for agency operations.

Foggo, who was the agency's executive director at the time, is also charged with encouraging his CIA colleagues to hire Wilkes without disclosing that the pair were childhood friends.

Prosecutors say that in return, Wilkes offered to hire Foggo after he retired from government service and treated his friend to extravagant meals and vacations, including a trip to Scotland during which they racked up a $44,000 hotel bill and took $4,000 helicopter rides to play golf.

Wilkes was charged in a separate indictment with conspiracy, bribery, money laundering and unlawful monetary transactions to Cunningham in return for government contracts.

A new indictment was returned in that case last week that included new charges against another defendant, New York mortgage banker John T. Michael, who was described as a co-conspirator in Cunningham's 2005 plea agreement. Michael now faces counts of money laundering and unlawful monetary transactions in connection with wire transfers allegedly used to pay off the mortgage on Cunningham's $2.5 million mansion.

Wilkes and Michael pleaded not guilty to the new charges. All three men remain free on bail.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns set a Sept. 18 trial date for Wilkes and Michael, followed by a trial for Foggo and Wilkes starting Oct. 23. Burns denied a request by Foggo's attorneys that their client be tried separately in Virginia, where he lives.

Burns also heard arguments from defense attorneys on several key issues, including a request for an investigation into government leaks to news organizations including The Associated Press during the probe.

Wilkes' attorney, Mark Geragos, has said he believes the information was leaked to pressure Justice Department officials into approving criminal charges sought by prosecutors in San Diego before ousted U.S. Attorney Carol Lam resigned in February. The indictments were returned two days before her departure.

"It's clear - clear to me at least - that they were scrambling," Geragos said after Monday's hearing. "It sure looks to me as though something's going on in that office, and I don't know what it is."

Prosecutors have said that the timing had nothing to do with Lam's departure. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Forge told the judge the matter had been referred to another U.S. attorney's office as part of an internal Justice Department review.

Burns ordered that the results of the review be turned over to him and said he would require the government to disclose to defense attorneys the identities of any witnesses who had been identified as leakers.

The initial charges came 20 months after the FBI opened an investigation into Cunningham, who served on key House committees with oversight of government contracts. He pleaded guilty in November 2005 to taking $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors and was sentenced to more than eight years in prison.

Foggo and Wilkes played high school football together growing up in Chula Vista, south of San Diego. They roomed together at San Diego State University, were best men at each other's weddings and named their sons after each other.

Foggo, the former No. 3 official at the CIA, resigned from the spy agency in May 2006 after his house in suburban Virginia and office at the CIA's Langley, Va., headquarters were raided by federal agents.

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