Friday, December 02, 2005

Wilkes: The invisible empire

I'm both gratified and frustrated. Gratified, because yesterday's post on the shadowy Brent Wilkes -- the man who bribed Duke Cunningham -- received a nice amount of attention. Frustrated, because the mainstream media still doesn't get it.

Take, for example, this story in the Mercury News:
In what would be an audacious abuse of that nexus of money, power and influence, two defense contractors now stand accused of bribing Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif. - a power on the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee - in exchange for top feed at the Pentagon trough. Cunningham resigned from Congress this week after pleading guilty to accepting $2.4 million in bribes, including a Rolls-Royce and a $7,200 antique Louis-Philippe commode.
That's fine, as far as it goes -- but the matter goes much further. Readers of the Mercury News will receive the impression that the companies which made the pay-offs have nevertheless provided useful services to the DOD.

That's not true. For the most part, we are talking about a series of fake companies under the control of one man: Brent Wilkes.

While I believe that the Wilkes Corporation (also known as ADCS and Group W Advisors) intended to hire enough people to give his firm a more convincing veneer of legitimacy, the available evidence indicates that Wilkes' company existed primarily as a way-station for political pay-offs.

Remember the go-go days of the internet? Remember when a snazzy web page could make a tiny, under-financed company appear to be a massive conglomerate -- even when the firm conducted little actual business?

Update that scenario to the post-9/11 era, and you have the Wilkes corporation. Apparently, they did provide the military with document services -- which means, basically, that they scanned a lot of hard-copy pages that had been yellowing in file drawers. For example -- and this may be the only example -- ADCS worked on a project involving digitizing documents related to the building of the Panama Canal.

And Brent Wilkes' wife Regina had her own catering enterprise.

If you can discover anything else of practical value that the Wilkes family of firms actually did, let me know.

Is the Pentagon truly willing to pay three-quarters of a billion dollars to anyone who wants to run some old docs through a scanner? I know quite a few people who would volunteer to take that gig...

The invisible empire. I still have yet to discover any evidence that the other "defense-related" enterprises operating under the Wilkes umbrella were genuine businesses.

"Group W Media," the advertising agency with no discernable clients, was a front for something -- I don't yet know what. "Group W Transportation" amounted to a time-share arrangement involving a Lear jet. "Al Dust Properties" and "Group W Holdings" supposedly owned properties -- but I can't trace any holdings beyond the impressive building which the Wilkes Corporation called home. (It's now up for auction, by the way.) MailSafe Inc. supposedly offers "mail decontamination, digital capture, and electronic distribution to government and commercial entities." But the web site has disappeared, and the company seems to have left zero imprint on corporate America. Where is the evidence that it actually provided any services to clients?

"PerfectWave Technologies" has (or had) what seems, at first, to be an impressive web page advertising speech recognition devices for the military. (That page is really little more than a ghost, since the official Wilkes Corp. site no longer points to it.) Look closer: The site does not specify any PerfectWave products. Neither do we encounter any named personnel or development teams. No order information. If this company makes battlefield-ready high-tech equipment, why doesn't the the web site mention any departments, managers or employees? All we get is a single phone number and a fax number. Now conduct a Google search: Aside from channeling funds to politicians, PerfectWave hasn't done anything to warrant a mention.

"Pure Aqua Technologies" another Wilkes operation, seems to be pure snake oil. No address, no telephone number, no nothing -- except this stupid web page, which is a joke. Nevertheless, "Aqua" managed to pass some green around Washington.

Ghost locations. Supposedly, Wilkes has an office building in Honolulu, which is the home of yet another subsidiary: AkamaiInfoTech. They once had a nifty web page, which has disappeared. But what actually goes on there?

The Lycos directory does not indicate that a business called Akamai Info Tech has ever existed in Honolulu. However, there is a company called ADCS on the big island, in a surprisingly remote location. The map function places Wilkes' firm near, but not on, Booth Road. (Believe it or not!) It's in a very rural area at the foot of Mt. Tantalus (named for the figure from Greek mythology who "was uniquely favored among mortals since he was invited to share the food of the gods. However, he abused the guest-host relationship...").

People creating fake businesses or addresses have been known to set up mailboxes in rural locales.

We do have a phone number for ADCS Honolulu: (808) 597-9188. That number is not operational.

In short, we have no street address, no web page, and no other mention of that phone number on any page known to Google. Was this "branch office" ever anything more than a mail drop? I doubt it.

The other branch office is in Chantilly, Virigina. In this case, we do have an address and a phone number: 14020 Thunderbolt Place, Suite 200; Chantilly, VA 20151; (703) 234-9700. There's even a contact person: Gina DiPilla. But nobody answered when I called at 11 a.m. (EST) on a business day. All web links for ADCS Virginia go straight back to the main Poway site.

Clearly, ADCS once performed some kind of service at this location -- but what, precisely, did it do? ADCS would seem to occupy a smallish office on the second floor; it's hard to believe the company was really looking to hire "team leaders" and engineers, despite the advertisement appearing on the main site.

The web sites. Wilkes did have a talent for creating web sites; one must grant that. A kind reader helped dig up some of the sites that aren't so easily discovered:
Of course, it is not at all uncommon for businessmen to buy up web names which they may never use. However, many of these sites point to more "Potemkin village" firms -- fake companies obviously designed to rake in taxpayer dough for services un-rendered.

Take Archer Logistics: The site paints a portrait of a firm which deserves to be ranked alongside Lockheed and Boeing. But the contact info goes to that same small second-story ADCS office space in Chantilly, VA. And no other sites on the web offer any clue that Archer has ever provided any branch of the military with any actual service or piece of equipment.

The web site for Liberty Defense Technologies presents no information whatsoever: All one encounters are fields for username and password. What was the purpose of this site? One can only guess.

WilkesTechnology no longer has a working web page, if ever it did. OCDLLC seems to be another company that doesn't actually do anything. The Poway Mafia is just plain cute. Acoustical Communications Systems, like PerfectWave, is another site that seems impressive at first -- until you try to discover what products they offer or who does what. As near as I can tell, the firm seems to have had something to do with loudspeakers. Theoretically.

Final questions. The Cunningham case was outrageous enough when it was about bribery. But the bribes to Cunningham cost each taxpayer less than a penny; the frauds committed by Brent Wilkes sucked dollars out of each and every wallet in this land. Personally, I would have considered my share of that money better spent on a nice chicken sandwich -- or on providing services to the needy. I bet you feel likewise.

So why won't the media pay more attention to Brent Wilkes?

And why couldn't the Pentagon double-check where the money went? Surely someone in that famous five-sided building could have pored through those websites and spotted the obvious clues indicating a sharpster at work. Why wasn't the public warned that hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars went out to a con artist?

How many other crooks like Wilkes have helped to empty our national treasure-house? Why is there no money for armored Humvees in Iraq, but plenty of cash for right-wing Republicans with connections?

And when will the mainstream media stop pretending that Wilkes' many phony-baloney "businesses" were anything other than web-based cons?


Anonymous said...

take a look at Google Maps view of the supposed headquarter of Group W Media.
Zoom in, remove the "balloon" and it turns out to be a vacant lot (with two big installations (shopping centers?) close by.
The level of corruption and cynicism of the present criminal ruling class is breathtaking.

Joseph Cannon said...

I think that must be an outdated photo. They definitely did build a massive building there.

Anonymous said...

The name AkamaInfoTech was no doubt chosen to be confused with Akamai, provider of bulk bandwidth and a legitimate operation....

Joseph Cannon said...

Actually, there was a typo in an earlier version of this post. The website owned by Wilkes is indeed Amakaiinfotech. Even so, the Lycos directory does not list anything like Amakai Info Tech, although there seem to be lots of other (obviously unrelated) companies named Amakai soemthing-or-other.

Anonymous said...

And why couldn't the Pentagon double-check where the money went?

Perhaps all the Pentagon investigators were killed when that phantom plane crashed into it on 9/11.

Anonymous said...

Great article J Cannon.

But, alas, there are thousands more, all over the world.

How to stop a situation that is win-win for the scum involved?

Anonymous said...

Two interesting bits from this article in the North County (San Diego) Times

1) The ADCS building is up for sale. Presumably once the graft income dried up, it was hard to support the mortgage.
2) Reports that ADCS has soaked up over $76 million of federal contracts.

Anyone with some time to kill might find interesting records of those contracts at ... it appears to be a database of all gov't contracts, but I don't have time to figure out how to search it.

Anonymous said...

Group W?! As in "Alice's Restaurant" and the Group W bench?

BillJ-MN said...

Are they father-rapers?

Anonymous said...

I read it as akamaiinfotech on the page you linked to and also googled it and found references to wilkes corp. To back up the anonymous comment, it probably is to be confused with Akamai. The founder and CEO of Akamai, Danny Lewin, was killed on 9/11, for what it's worth.

Anonymous said...

This matter looks like it requires a professional, full-time researcher -- someone who knows where and how to look, and who can pull string inside the Pentagon. And who understands the dangers and knows how to negotiate them.

There aren't many such people left, but have you tried contacting Seymour Hersh? His Washington number is generally available, though I don't have it here.

Also, TPM is apparently trying to put together an investigative team, but that site is mired in the political equivalent of the middle-brow. They're interested in the small scandals, but ignore the larger ones.

Anonymous said...

Tantalus is not on the Big Island, it is a ritzy suburb of Honolulu. It is a residential, not commercial, area. Its community association is at . The "business" in question evidently has the address of an upscale private residence

Joseph Cannon said...

There is a Mt. Tantalus. The web site you note speaks of a conservation area with hiking trails and such surrounding the residential community.

I wish someone from Honolulu could read these words, visit the area in question, and tell us just what is going on.

To find the area in question, just go to, type in ADCS, then ask for a map. Keep zooming in. Interesting, no? It doesn't seem to be on a street...

Anonymous said...

We lived in Honolulu many years, sorry we don't live there now. However my son was a cab driver for awhile and he tells me that Booth Rd is all residential.

Unknown said...

I use quite a bit for research, except for Brent Wilkes the Bios on Zoominfo are dead ends, and even then Wilkes' is mostly pointing to the scandal news.

Two semi-live leads:
Joel G. Combs, ADCS Director of Business Development, who also comes up in 2004 under Group W Advisors, Inc. (love the name - presumably an allusion to the "W" in the White House). From the Group W materials: "Joel G. Combs works in the Washington D.C. office for Group W Advisors. In his position he acts as a primary liaison for GWA's clients.

Mr. Combs has worked in numerous areas on behalf of GWA's clients. These areas include:

Appropriations - Mr. Combs provides advice to clients and works towards securing federal and state appropriations for those clients.
Issues Advocacy - Mr. Combs has created coalitions and key associations for clients with subject matter expertise in Information Technology, postal issues in the wake of the Anthrax attacks, signal processing using independent component analysis, and environmental and landfill mitigation cleanup.

Legislative Analysis - Mr. Combs leads a team of analysts in conducting innovative, thorough research tracking, monitoring and reporting on policy and government issues.

Public Relations - Mr. Combs has played an integral part in establishing ADCS and Group W Advisor's presence in both San Diego and Washington D.C and has executed public relations strategies and community outreach programs on behalf of these companies, and their government relations clients."

There is a colleague of Cliff A. Rittell, ADCS Director of IT named Michael Guilianotti of Tatum Partners LLP, a company supposedly headquartered in Tysons Corner, VA. Tatum Partners appears to be a body shop of sorts providing CFOs and IT personnel - it's speculation, but perhaps this is a shadow company factory? His bio reads: "Mr. Giulianotti worked in senior level financial positions for multi-national companies in the engineering, construction, oil drilling and exploration, manufacturing and cogeneration industries."

It's easy to speculate about the potential connections these kinds of bios point to, but it's pretty scary stuff to think of.

Anonymous said...

1st: Google maps is off. The building is at the NW corner of Stowe and Danielson.
2nd: All of the W's in the company names refer to Wilkes (not the White house)
3rd: Wilkes Corp. created all of these subsidiaries to make it look like a bigger empire than it really was. Instead of having a marketing department, he created a marketing company (Group W. Media). All of these companies were in the same building, and did work for each other. However, they had their own Corporate Umbrella, and file taxes separately (I hope.)

Anonymous said...

I live on Oahu in Hawaii and work in the City government of Honolulu. If a specific street address could be provided, I would check it out, but the information provided by ADCS or Akamai Infromation Tech seems deliberately vague so as to be impossible to trace. What has been written above by other commenters is correct as far as the information provided goes. The location on Tantalus Drive / Booth Road is a forested, relatively high-end residential area on the side of a long-extinct volcanic cone. It could not concievably, and by land use code, be the site of a business unless it is home-based with just a few employees.

"Akamai" is a Hawaiian word meaning (roughly) expert or knowledgable. It is a word found in about a score of Honolulu businesses from mortgage companies to dental clinics, however to use it in connection with information technologies certainly suggests that the originator of the name was trying to tie it to the more well know business mentioned previously (also tied to Guy Kawasaki, the Apple computer executive and creative person who was a big promoter of the Macintosh). If the company was not so obscure and had a visible commercial presence, the chosen company name would probably be an ivitation for a lawsuit from the more well known Akamai bandwidth company - yet more circumstantial evidence the business is a fraud.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone noticed that PerfectWave Technologies
("contact us" tab) and Pure Aqua Tech share the same fax number....?.....

Tracy V said...

I called Perfectwave and tried extension 1001 and got a woman, I will call back later and try another extension and see if I get the same lady.

Joseph Cannon said...

I'm sure you will reach SOMEBODY. According to the SD Union Tribune, roughly 40 or so people may still be working for Wilkes. That doesn't mean Perfect Wave actually exists, in the sense of doing the sorts of things the web site says it does.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Acoustical Communications Systems does include one product on their "Tech" page:

SynOpt™ Acoustical Analysis Software

Acoustical Communication Systems' SynOpt™ Acoustical Analysis Software analyzes specific acoustical environments and creates an optimized communication system for that environment. Among other things, SynOpt™ analyzes the acoustical profile of the environment and determines the need for and placement of sound absorption materials taking into consideration absorption, reflection and diffusion, as well as the optimized placement, design and type of speakers.

SynOpt™ utilizes a full set of intelligibility quotient measurements, reverberation times, frequency response, potential SPL, amplifier power availability and the speaker directivity of existing systems to develop optimized, superior solutions.

* Customized Transducer Design & Manufacturing
* Acoustical Insulation Materials and Design
* Advanced Composites Manufacturing

Anonymous said...

After trying to research the ACS "product" it's pretty safe to say it's a hose.

I noticed that the name Rolando Garcia appears the author under Group W Media and ACS sites. Perhaps he is an employee?

Anonymous said...

Mother F-ing BASTARDS. This should be a front-page, 24/7, instant Congressional investigation-type news story... thank God for the integrity of the blog-world, otherwise we might as well be living in the Matrix or something, these scandals are getting out of hand and all I see on MMM outlets is friggin garbage about nothing. This is huge. These people make me sick.

Anonymous said...

Being a previous employee I can guarantee you there was a building. It is a house of cards though.

Anonymous said...

Joseph, you really need to do your homework. To use Lycos as a means to figure out if Akami Info Tech actually existed is hardly an "investigation." Based on your non-findings from Lycos, you assume it was not a real company. I used to work for Akamai Info Tech for 1.5 years. I started at 7:00 a.m. and finished at 4:00 p.m. I caught the bus to work and caught the bus home. Want the bus number I caught? #15. How about street I got off at: Ward Ave. Then I walked to Pensacola St. Via Kapiolani St to get to work. I got paid every two weeks, paid my taxes, and took out for my 401(k) just like everyone else who worked there. Even better, how about the date I started? July 26, 2006. My last day? September 17, 2003. Do your homework, and stop your bad assumptions unless you have real evidence.

Anonymous said...

Correction to my comment:
Start Date: July 26, 2002

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