An Ethiopian community leader has pleaded guilty to his role in orchestrating a massive taxi industry bribery scheme, fingering D.C. Councilman Jim Graham’s former chief of staff as one of his co-conspirators.
Over the past three years, Abdul Kamus gave more than $30,000 in cash, trips and free taxi rides to Graham’s former Chief of Staff Ted Loza in return for influence in the D.C. Council, Kamus admitted Wednesday. His admissions do not implicate Graham in any wrongdoing, although Kamus said in court documents that he met with Graham on at least two occasions to discuss legislation that benefited the taxi industry. Graham chaired the council’s public works and transportation committee, which oversees the taxi industry.
Graham told the Washington Examiner that the guilty plea, “has nothing to do with me,” and declined to comment further.
In September, Loza was charged with two counts of bribery stemming from his alleged acceptance of $500 to help get taxi legislation passed. But earlier this month, prosecutors filed a new indictment charging him with accepting more than $30,000 in cash, trips, and free taxi and limousine rides.
In October, 39 taxi drivers and industry leaders — including Kamus — were indicted on bribery charges as part of a massive FBI takedown of a cash-for-licenses scheme Kamus has now admitted to running.
The group, with Kamus at its head, provided more than $200,000 to Taxi Commissioner Leon Swain in return for licenses, Kamus admitted. Swain, however, had been working with the FBI since he was first approached by the conspirators in October 2007.
According to federal authorities, Kamus was heard describing Loza as Graham’s “gatekeeper.” The cash helped Kamus get time with Graham through Loza.
The scheme started after the District passed legislation in October 2007 requiring taxis to use meters. In other cities, that requirement had often been followed by stringent limitations on the number of taxis licensed to do business. Industry leaders expected the same would happen in D.C.
Kamus, using bribes, pushed for and obtained legislation in July 2008 that first limited the number of taxi licenses the city would issue and then later created an exception on that limit for hybrid cars.
By: Freeman Klopott
Source: Washington Examiner: