When last we updated the Duke Cunningham 'Livin' Large Free of Charge' chronicles (DCLLFCC) you'll remember that Duke was trying to offer advice on getting a presidential pardon to one Thomas Kontogiannis, a Long Island real estate developer who'd recently been convicted in a bribery, kickback and contract-rigging scandal and who'd apparently, as part of that scam, arranged pay-offs totaling roughly a million dollars to Queens school superintendent Celestine Miller, including some $80,000 into the coffers of her failed congressional bid in 1998.
Around the time Duke was offering the advice he managed to sell his boat, the Kelly C, to Kontogiannis for what was apparently a vastly inflated price, bagging Duke a quick $400,000 profit. And somehow as part of this deal (we still haven't figured out quite the ins and outs of it) the Kontogiannis family mortgage lending company agreed to fund a series of discount loans that Duke used to buy his new house in Rancho Sante Fe.
But it seems that wasn't the only mortgage Duke got from Coastal Capital, the Kontogiannis family's mortgage company. According to this Friday evening AP report, they also set Duke up with another mortgage -- this one for $150,000 -- for a two-bedroom condo he bought in Arlington, Virginia. (And all this time you thought Duke lived on a boat!) The total purchase price was $350,000 and he resold it in 2004 for $500,000.
But even this isn't all.
Following up on a tip, I did a little poking around myself. And I take it that the condominium sale in question must be that referenced in the April 18th, 2002 real estate section of the Washington Post: "EADS ST. S., 1211, No. 2002-Ratta Joseph M. Della to Nancy D. and Randall H. Cunningham, $ 350,000."
Now, it seems that Joseph M. Della Ratta may be another real estate developer trying to settle some misunderstandings with government prosecutors.
According to this August 2003 Department of Labor bulletin, Della Ratta and a colleague got nailed for raiding an ERISA asset management plan of which they served as trustees. In July 2003, says the bulletin, a federal court "appointed an independent fiduciary to distribute all remaining plan assets of the profit sharing plans of Della Ratta, Inc. and Commercial Management Company in Silver Spring, Maryland. The court further ordered restoration of more than $166,000 to the plans from assets held in a Della Ratta, Inc. corporate account and restitution to be paid by the plansâ trustees."
Said Labor Secretary Elaine Chao of the case: "Corporations and executives who are designated retirement plan fiduciaries have a responsibility to protect the pension assets of its participants. These defendants used the plan assets for their personal gain. The department's action recovers pension assets taken illegally from the workers and their families.â
Della Ratta and his colleague Joseph E. Brimmer were ordered to pay back the money, removed as trustees of the plan in question and barred from ever again overseeing any other plans governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.
The original government suit against Della Ratta was filed in December 2000 -- about a year and a half before Duke bought the condo. And the final resolution of the case came a little more than a year after that. This was of course while the home and boat switcheroos were also afoot.