But after receiving more than 130 letters in support of Loza from residents and current and former D.C. officials, U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman gave the former chief of staff to D.C. Council member Jim Graham the minimum amount of prison time under federal guidelines.
Loza, 46, a native of Ecuador who is not a U.S. citizen, will also spend four months on supervised release and must complete 150 hours of community service, the judge said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Crabb had asked for 14 months’ imprisonment, saying Loza participated in a long-term scheme to control the District’s taxicab industry. The defense had asked for probation with possible home detention.
The judge said Loza’s actions — which included receiving the equivalent of up to $20,000 in cash, trips and other gifts over the years — constituted “an abuse of the public trust.” But he said he also took into consideration Loza’s service to the community.
“I think it would be unfortunate if he were to leave the United States . . . given all his good work,” Friedman said.
Cori W. Bassett, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, would not comment specifically about Loza but said the agency puts a priority on cases involving public safety or national security when it comes to deportation.
Guidelines issued under the Immigration and Nationality Act suggest that resident aliens who are sentenced to a year or more of prison time are deportable. In certain cases, those who have been convicted of multiple crimes are also subject to deportation, according to the guidelines.
Loza, wearing a D.C. flag pin in court, denied being part of a taxicab “plot.” He said the gratuities he received were not bribes but gifts from Abdulaziz Kamus, who was then an FBI informant and whom Loza claimed to have loved “like a brother.”
As Friedman read the sentence, some in the audience, including Loza’s wife, Ligia X. Munoz, wept. Loza later thanked the more than 50 family members and friends in attendance.
“The judge noticed!” he told the crowd outside the courtroom as some came up to hug him.
Pleasant Broadnax, an attorney for Loza, said after the hearing that Loza does not intend to appeal the sentence and that they were “heartened” by the sentencing.
Graham (D-Ward 1) did not attend the hearing but wrote a letter of support, saying that Loza had had a “profound” impact on the lives of D.C. immigrants. In a statement Tuesday, Graham described the sentence as “fair.”
Graham has not been charged with any crimes related to the FBI probe that led to Loza’s conviction and the arrests of more than three dozen others. Twenty-two of those arrested have pleaded guilty to bribery charges, and 15 are awaiting trial.
Friedman said he would allow Loza to report on his own to the prison, which will be assigned to him by the federal Bureau of Prisons within three to six weeks.