City Desk

How Is Causton Toney Connected to the Taxi Probe?

The audiotape played in court yesterday by federal prosecutors have brought one question about the D.C. taxi investigation to the fore: Who is Causton Toney, and how is he caught up in all this?

Toney is a former chairman of the D.C. Taxicab Commission, and before that served Mayor Anthony Williams in his economic development office. He has a long record of service to the District government before that, as a D.C. Council aide dating back to the 1980s and as a key figure in the city's banking regulatory apparatus.

Since leaving the Taxi Commission—he was replaced by FBI informant Leon Swain—he went to work for a group of Ethiopian cab companies, according to several sources, serving as their attorney, and taking an interest in United Fleet Management, a meter installation company formed by Yitbarek Syume, the alleged leader of the bribery scheme.

Far as LL can tell, there are a couple of possibilities.

First, Toney could be cooperating with the FBI in their takedown of Yitbarek Syume et al., or in investigations of other figures in the cab industry—figures possibly not in the District. If that's so, however, why would federal authorities raid his home, as the Washington Post reported a week ago?

Or perhaps Toney, as a business partner of Syume, is an ancillary figure in the investigation. A member of the bar in good standing, Toney might have been careful to refrain from getting involved in illegal activities, and thus avoided indictment, as part of the taped conversation indicates:

Swain: What about Toney, though?

Syume: —Toney is OK. Toney doesn't know nothing....

...But Toney knows about the stuff with Kamus?

—Still he doesn't know. He always said in the meeting, I don't know nothing.

OK, and he's going to keep on saying that?


He's ain't going to change up on us?

—No...believe me. We lack everything...But I worry that we gave him eight [???], I don't know how we take out that give him to them?

What, eight companies? Lemme tell you something, I didn't give him shit.

But in another part of the conversation, Swain declares that Toney has knowledge of the "companies"—a likely reference to the scheme in which Syume and his co-conspirators are alleged to have bribed Swain for multi-vehicle taxi company licenses.

Swain: You got to do me one favor, though. I know you know that Toney knows about all the companies and all the other shit. You sure Toney ain't going to talk?

Syume: —I didn't get him here yet, but I send someone to him...He doesn't know nothing, he's careful. Toney, he's careful from the beginning.

I know, but when we were sitting over there at Naylor Gardens the first time, we were talking about the companies and all that. And when we were coming back from New York, him and I were talking about the companies. So I know he knows about it...

—But he doesn't know...

He knows but he doesn't know...

—He doesn't I am confident [in] Toney. He is legal everything.

The last portion of the conversation—"he knows but he doesn't know"—could indicate that Toney has knowledge of some aspects of the scheme but not others. Or, as LL already noted, Toney, like Swain, is in with the feds and part of their subterfuge.

LL has made repeated attempts to contact Toney in recent weeks, including numerous phone calls and visits to his Brightwood home. All have been unsuccessful.

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  • Downtown rez

    Without putting too fine a point on it, I'll just observe that it seems from the news reports that the drivers seem to have been awfully confident that bribing the chair of the commission was a good idea.

  • Truth Hurts

    "He knows but he doesn't know" followed by "He ain't going to change up on us?" suggests a third scenario that you missed, LL. Specifically, Toney knows everything yet he's a good soldier and will deny all.

  • Downtown rez

    I'll go one step further and offer even odds that charges are brought for crimes committed while he chaired the commission.

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  • kevin wiggins

    ive know this guy since we were kids in bklyn n.y. mr & mrs toney did not raise that kind of child ........sorry guys but nothing will come of this