Just when you thought it was safe to go back down to the yacht basin, the Duke story returns!
I know they're hard to keep straight. But you'll remember that one of Duke's several cronies and sugar-daddies was Thomas T. Kontogiannis, the Long Island real estate developer convicted of a far-ranging kick-back, bid-rigging and bribery scheme centering on a public school district in Queens. In addition to the millions of dollars in fraudulent contracts, about 80-grand of his money also ended up finding its way into the campaign coffers of the Queens school superintendent when she unsuccessfully ran for Congress. But then, I digress.
Just to review, Kontogiannis gave Duke a) a loan at wholesale rates to buy a condo in Northern Virginia, b) a million dollar loan at the same rates to buy the new manse in Rancho Santa Fe that got Duke into all the trouble, and c) bought Duke's boat, the Kelly C, from him from at what seemed to be three or four times its market value.
Somehow or another the boat money ended up getting Duke out of paying back most of the million dollar loan. But the details escape me.
In any case, one mystery to the Kontogiannis angle has always been just what Kontogiannis got from Duke for all the free money. Remember, the standard merchandise Duke sold was the corruptly-obtained defense contract. And Kontogiannis' lines of business seemed limited to real estate and large-scale municipal corruption.
So it wasn't easy to see how these two entrepreneurs could end doing business together, though the massive skein of public corruption investigations and convictions hovering around Kontogiannis did always suggest that when there was a will there'd be a way.
Indeed, when the Post's Charles Babcock asked Kontogiannis earlier this month whether all his free goodies to Duke might constitute favors of an inappropriate sort, Kontogiannis had the Copolla-esque response: "Why would I do that? I don't need the man."
Well, it turns out Duke was in a position to do Kontogiannis a favor. He faxed a letter to the Queens DA basically suggesting that he back off and cut the K-man some slack.
Lest I be summarizing the matter too poetically, here's how Babcock describes it in his follow-up piece in tomorrow's Post ...
Cunningham wrote that it had come to his attention that the prosecutor had filed a case against Kontogiannis. The congressman wrote that there may be a political agenda against the school official by a disgruntled contractor and that Kontogiannis may have been victimized as a result. He asked Brown to contact him with any information he could provide on the case, and he thanked the prosecutor for considering his concern.
Cunningham noted in the letter, the sources added, that he had filed a congressional inquiry with Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.), who was then chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and attached a note in which a committee lawyer acknowledged receiving the inquiry and said he was looking into it.
Sam Stratman, a spokesman for Hyde, said the note "was merely a matter of courtesy to acknowledge that the committee had received [Cunningham's] request." When the committee lawyer "learned that the New York case was a potential criminal matter," Stratman said, "any inquiry would have been inappropriate. No inquires were ever made of New York officials by the chairman or his staff."
Oh, what a tangled web ...