Duke Cunningham freed, but has he learned his lesson? - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

Duke Cunningham freed, but has he learned his lesson?

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  • Ex-Calif. Rep. Cunningham finishes prison term

    Ex-Calif. Rep. Cunningham finishes prison term

    Tuesday, June 4 2013 6:22 PM EDT2013-06-04 22:22:17 GMT
    Former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-San Diego, imprisoned in 2006 for bribery, fraud and tax evasion, was released Tuesday from a federal halfway house in New Orleans. 
    Former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-San Diego, imprisoned in 2006 for bribery, fraud and tax evasion, was released Tuesday from a federal halfway house in New Orleans. 

SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Former San Diego Congressman Randy Duke Cunningham is a free man, after serving time for a bribery scheme that forced him to resign in disgrace.

Marcus Stern was a reporter for the Union-Tribune and was one of two reporters who broke Cunningham's story. He says this is a case where the system worked. His investigation began May 2005 with Cunningham's mansion in Rancho Santa Fe and he just kept on digging.

"I don't think he should have been in congress, and I think he'll struggle being out on the street," said Stern.

After spending more than seven years in prison on bribery and other charges, former Congressman Randy Duke Cunningham was released from a halfway house in New Orleans Tuesday.

The distinguished Vietnam War vet and former Navy pilot's 15-year career ended abruptly when he admitted to taking $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors and evading taxes. And, no one knows this case better than Stern - a journalist who uncovered the civil servants elaborate lifestyle and wrote a book about it.

Stern says the lifestyle that the 71-year-old craved was "lavish," filled with 19th century French antiques, Persian rugs, Rolls-Royce and a luxury house in Rancho Santa Fe.

Stern says he is still shocked at how Cunningham was able to hide his bribes for so long:

"You really wonder if we had not looked at those property records in 2005, if we didn't do this lifestyle audit, he might still be there."

The bribes, the largest known to be accepted by a member of congress, were found on a "bribe menu" written by the disgraced San Diego Congressman himself. It detailed how much it would cost contractors to essentially order multi-million-dollar government contracts.

Stern says the hypocritical congressman felt a sense of entitlement and perverted the entire system. He says if he could interview Cunningham he would ask him this:

"I really want to know how he was able to abuse the system the way he did and whether or not that's still possible."

Marcus says once the Rancho Santa Fe home was discovered he found out the congressman sold his house in Del Mar to a company owned by a man who was a defense contractor at an "inflated" price.

The same contractor went from no federal contracts to more than $100 million in military intelligence contracts.

Cunningham plans to live near his mother and brother in Arkansas and write books.

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