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Guilty plea in D.C. taxi industry bribe probe

By Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 15, 2010; B04

A man who advocated for Ethiopian taxi drivers in the District admitted in federal court Wednesday that he was part of a conspiracy in which public officials received or were offered $270,000 in cash, trips, limousine rides and other perks in exchange for favors.

Abdulaziz Kamus pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to paying bribes to a public official and conspiracy to commit bribery. The plea was the latest legal action in a far-reaching criminal investigation involving the city's taxicab industry.

The scheme was launched in 2007 as the District converted from a taxi system that charged riders by the zone to one that uses meters, court documents say. As that shift unfolded, Kamus and his conspirators sought to have the city limit the number of taxi licenses available and to obtain as many licenses as possible, with the aim of "controlling and dominating the taxicab industry in the District," federal prosecutors said in court documents.

In a related case this month, a federal grand jury brought additional charges against Ted G. Loza, former chief of staff to D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1). The indictment accused Loza, who left his position after he was arrested last fall, of accepting or soliciting bribes.

Graham has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, and he has said that he was "fully cooperating" with authorities. In September, law enforcement officials told The Washington Post that Graham was not a target of their investigation.

"There are no allegations of any wrongdoing on my part in the indictment," Graham said Wednesday.

A 21-page "criminal information" filed in the case sets out a number of instances in which Kamus or his co-conspirators allegedly gave or offered cash or trips to officials. A criminal information is a document generally filed in connection with a plea deal.

As early as April 2007, court papers say, Kamus gave Loza about $2,000 in cash.

On Jan. 6, 2008, Kamus offered to arrange for Loza and Graham to take a trip to Ethiopia "as a reward for their help enacting legislation to curb the issuance of taxicab company licenses," according to the documents. A few days later, Kamus allegedly told Loza that he had obtained airline tickets for Loza and Graham to take the trip. A co-conspirator later said that Graham would not take the trip.

Kamus's attorney, Timothy Maloney, declined to comment.

Staff writer Tim Craig contributed to this report.

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