Graham Aide's Arrest Rooted in Probe of D.C. Taxi Industry
Saturday, September 26, 2009
The arrest of a D.C. Council staffer Thursday on bribery charges has roots in a corruption investigation of the District's taxi industry that began more than a year ago, according to two law enforcement sources.
The sources said the probe included court-authorized wiretaps and the use of informants wearing recording devices. It is widespread and continuing and involves bribes in excess of $100,000, they said. The investigation became public Thursday when authorities arrested Ted G. Loza, 44, chief of staff to council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) on bribery charges.
Loza is accused of accepting $1,500 in bribes and free trips in exchange for helping to push legislation that would benefit some in the taxi industry. He is free on personal recognizance and declined to comment Friday.
The investigation, the sources said, began about 18 months ago when Abdulaziz Kamus, a well-known advocate for Ethiopian taxi drivers in the District, approached an official at the D.C. Taxicab Commission with a bribe. The sources requested anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss active cases.
The sources would not say why Kamus was trying to bribe the commission official. The commission closely regulates the taxi industry, and the official reported the bribe attempt to authorities.
Kamus most recently was executive director of the African Resource Center. Many of the city's 8,000 cabdrivers are of Ethiopian descent.
Reached on his cellphone yesterday, Kamus declined to comment. A spokesman for federal prosecutors in the District, who are overseeing the probe, also declined to comment.
At some point, the sources said, Kamus began working for federal agents. He has not been charged.
Authorities relied heavily on Kamus to build their case against Loza, according to court records and sources familiar with the investigation.
Kamus wore a recording device at two meetings with Loza in June and July at which he gave the staffer $1,500 in cash, according to the indictment. Kamus is not identified by name in court papers.
Prosecutors said Kamus had a "financial interest" in the taxicab industry and bribed Loza to push legislation limiting the number of taxi licenses issued by the District and to create an exception for hybrid vehicles. Loza helped him get Graham to introduce such legislation, the prosecutors alleged.
In court papers, prosecutors alleged that Kamus met with Graham on the night before the council member introduced the taxicab measure June 30.