Congressman Cunningham admits taking bribes

Representative Randy Cunningham of California resigned from Congress today after admitting to a federal judge that he had taken $2.4 million in bribes from a military contractor.

Mr. Cunningham, 63, made a brief and tearful announcement to a group of reporters outside a federal courthouse in San Diego after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit &to=' target=_blank>bribery. He admitted to taking money from a military contractor in exchange for his supporting the contractor's efforts to secure Defense Department contracts. The eight-term Republican congressman, one of the most highly decorated fighter pilots of the Vietnam War, also pleaded guilty to charges of mail fraud, wire fraud and tax evasion for underreporting his income in 2004.

"The truth is I broke the law," Mr. Cunningham, and "disgraced my family."

"I forfeited my freedom, my reputation, my worldly possessions," and, he added, his voice breaking, "most importantly, the trust of my friends and family."

"I can't undo what I have done but I can atone," he told reporters, reports New York Times.

According to Xinhua, earlier in the day, in a court hearing in San Diego, he answered "yes" when asked by US District Judge Larry Burns if he had accepted bribes from someone in exchange for his performance of official duties.

Cunningham now faces a maximum of ten years in jail, pending a verdict in February.

Prosecutors said two years ago, the former congressman and his wife sold their home for over 1.6 million US dollars to a defense contractor named Mitchell Wade and then used the proceeds from the sale to buy a 2.55-million-dollar mansion.

A year later, Wade put Cunningham's old home back on the market and sold it for less than a million dollars.

Wade also let Cunningham live rent-free on his yacht while his firm, MZM Inc., donated generously to Cunningham's political campaigns. By bribing Cunningham, Wade and MZM won several valuable defense contracts, since the congressman sits on the House Appropriations Subcommittee which controls defense budgets.

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