LOS ANGELES – When then-Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham admitted in 2005 to accepting $2.4 million in illegal gifts from defense contractors in exchange for government contracts and other favors, it was considered the largest bribery scandal in congressional history. The disgraced former San Diego congressman received one of the pardons issued Wednesday by President Donald Trump in the final hours of his term, which included several others with California connections.
RANDY “DUKE” CUNNINGHAM
Cunningham parlayed his feats as a Navy flying ace during the Vietnam War into a career in the U.S House. It ended ignominiously, after he pleaded guilty to receiving a luxury house, a yacht, a Rolls-Royce, lavish meals and $40,000 in Persian rugs and antique furniture from companies in exchange for steering lucrative government contracts their way. He was released from prison in 2013. Trump granted him a conditional pardon, saying Cunningham tutored inmates while in prison and now volunteers for a local fire department. The administration said the pardon was strongly supported by Republican former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Trump granted a full pardon to Broidy, of Beverly Hills, a major Trump fundraiser and former Republican National Committee deputy finance chairman. Prosecutors said Broidy collected millions of dollars in a back-channel but ultimately unsuccessful lobbying scheme aimed at getting the Trump administration to drop an investigation into embezzlement from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund and to extradite a Chinese dissident wanted by the government in Beijing. He pleaded guilty last fall to acting as an unregistered lobbyist and was awaiting sentencing. The administration said he is known for numerous philanthropic efforts, including on behalf of law enforcement and the Jewish community. Those supporting the pardon included California Republican Reps. Devin Nunes and Ken Calvert.
Zangrillo, a Miami developer and investor, was arrested in March 2019 in a college admissions bribery scheme. Federal prosecutors in Boston accused him of paying $250,000 to get his daughter into the University of Southern California as a transfer in 2018. Zangrillo was scheduled to stand trial in September. Trump granted him a full pardon, and the administration said his daughter did not have others take standardized tests for her and she is currently earning a 3.9 GPA at USC.
MAHMOUD REZA BANKI
The Iranian-born, Ivy League-trained U.S. citizen has been on a long-running quest to clear his name after a a 2011 conviction — later overturned — on a charge of violating the Iran trade embargo and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business. In 2016, he was hoping for a pardon from then-President Barack Obama for two convictions that remain on his record for making false statements to a federal agency, which never came. The Trump administration said the felony charges for making false statements have prevented Banki from resuming a full life, and noted that he has “dedicated himself to his community and maintained a sincere love and respect for the United States.” He was granted a full pardon. Banki was born in Tehran and came to the U.S. when he was 18, going on to earn two degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, then a doctorate in chemical engineering from Princeton University in 2006. The administration said the pardon was supported by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California.
Trump commuted the sentence of Shayota. The administration said she had served more than half of her 24-month sentence, after being convicted of conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods, commit copyright infringement and introduce misbranded food into interstate commerce in a scheme selling counterfeit energy drinks. At the time of her conviction, authorities said millions of fake 5-Hour Energy shots were mixed from unregulated ingredients by day laborers under unsanitary conditions, then sold. The administration said she is a mother and a deeply religious woman who had no prior convictions and displayed “an extraordinary commitment to rehabilitation.”