City Desk

Taxi Mogul Solomon Bekele Speaks

In his column this week on the D.C. taxi industry, LL mentioned the name of Solomon Bekele—calling him "almost a mythic figure, a bogeyman, in local taxi circles."

LL was not able to speak to Bekele prior to his Tuesday deadline, but he has since gotten in touch.

In the course of interviewing various figures in the taxi industry, Bekele's name came up repeatedly—not, mind you, as anyone who is directly involved in the ongoing scandal, but as someone who cuts a wide swath in the taxicab world.

Bekele these days is the proprietor of Crown Captive Insurance Co., one of a small handful companies operating in the city that specialize in taxi insurance, which is quite different from the six-month policy you might buy from GEICO or State Farm. Taxi policies are rarely more than two weeks in duration, and are usually sold to drivers through the taxi companies most affiliate with.

But Bekele's reputation outgrows merely owning an insurance company—time and again, figures in the cab industry, speaking anonymously, mentioned his name with a mixture of awe and suspicion. Much of that can be traced to his history in Atlanta, where Bekele controlled a large share of the taxi market through companies he owned. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution called him "Atlanta's taxi king" in 2001.) Still, Bekele says there's no basis for any suspicions.

Asked about his involvement in stumping for a Atlanta-like medallion system, he says: "None whatsoever. I'm in the insurance business."

Bekele, a Potomac resident, explains that some people had approached him to inquire about how medallion systems work in cities like Boston, New York, and Atlanta—that's it; no contact with elected officials or policymakers on the matter. "I have from time to time, when requested by interested cab drivers or companies, expressed my experience in the matter of medallions," he would write in an e-mail to LL, referring to his advice as "considered opinion." (That's not necessarily at odds with what LL reported—that Bekele is a "strong backer" of such a system, which was based on conversations with several anonymous sources, who recall Bekele advocating for a shift.)

So what accounts for all the mentions of his name? "You call this jealousy," he says. "These are people from the same hometown....These kind rumors are politically motivated." To wit, connected to his advocacy for human rights and open elections in Ethiopia, not his involvement in the taxi industry.

And regarding his connection to Yitbarek Syume, indicted as a ringleader in the alleged bribery scheme, Bekele says there's barely any. Syume bought his insurance, he says, and he went to Syume's garage on 5th Street NE "maybe three to four times a year" to get his cars fixed. "He knows the cars," he says.

Bekele called LL again this afternoon, saying his mention in the column was unfair. "It's almost a riot out there," he declared, saying that the column had only served to stoke suspicions. "You're flaring up a lot of emotions here!"

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  • Walt Whitman

    Flaring up emotions and flushing out the eternally corrupt. I sure hope you help in leading them to nail Jim Graham!

  • Fred

    One taxi driver I had said that the main informant guy (an Ethiopian) got involved precisely to prevent Solomon from "ruining" DC's taxi system like he did Atlanta's (the driver said). The driver didn't necessarily think medallions were an awful idea at all, he just thought that Solomon's involvement in it, drove it into the ground.

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  • Atamenta kinde

    Why dont u check the direct and indirect financial contribution by Solomon to the fund raisings of officials like Fenty and Graham. He does not do that out of civic duty. He is no Syiyum but a man who knows how to use people like siyum to get what he wants

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  • http://Citypaper Teddy

    This guy ( Solomon)is smart and very dangerous person, he knows what he is doing; However, It is important to investigate in what way he controlled Atlanta’s Taxi company; and also his current conspiracy in controlling DC’s Taxi businesses.

  • Tsehai

    Leave alone Selemon.He is not an idiot like some of you who commented none sense comments. He is well educated and hard worker and successful individual. Go to school like him and live and think better. Selemon keep up the good job"lante yemewrewrebehen geta yemeketeleh" You know how few narrow minded Ethiopians thinks.God Be with you.

  • Truth Hurts

    I'll never believe anyone who sells two week insurance policies to captive cab drivers. Guilty.

  • nunu

    October 13, 2009

    This is undoubtedly the worst piece of reporting I have ever read. Suspicions are not certainties. Accusation consists of untruth and defaming his character. Real journalist reports facts not suspicions based on jealousy, rumors and detestation. The reporter has difficulty reporting truth based on facts instead he prefers to distort the truth. LL doesn’t do real journalism; there is no reason for him to exist. I only give constructive criticism here.
    I found him Economical with the truth and came across as completely unprofessional Journalist. Finding the perfect equilibrium in truth has been very hard for most transgression souls….
    On the bright side Mr. Bekele is more than a superior business man, he is well respected citizen and the nicest person I've ever known. Mr. Bekele is best known for his kindness throughout his community. Moreover, is an educated gentleman in his personal dealings, a successful business man, this undoubtedly upset the mediocre.

    The fact is that mediocrity is in far greater abundance than brilliance so it uses the only tool it has --criticism-- to tear brilliance down. You see it in grade school, where academic achievement is derided as nerdish.

    A half truth is a whole lie. ~Yiddish Proverb

    Nunu

  • Kolfe

    It sounds to me that people that are jealous of Mr. Bekele's success are eager to drag him down to their level. Mr. Bekele seems to have to deal with all this venom from those who oppose his political activism in his native Ethiopia in support of opposition politicians and those who are just jealous of his financial success and the respect he has earned in the Ethio-American community.

  • Tegest

    It is so sad to hear nasty comments about a respected person in our community. Solomon Bekele is one of the kindest person I have ever seen in my life. Any of the Ethiopian churches and Fundraisings will witness for his kindness. I never expected my own people will be my enemy if ever become successful like him. I am sure majority of the nasty comments came from those who had noting to do but gossip about people and I am forced to give my comment. Please, work hard like him, go to church and pray. You know there is a saying that says, "What you saw is what you get". Be prepared to pay for all the lies you write about someone innocent and respected Ethiopian like Solomon.

  • Ralph Tomlinson

    Solomon Bekele's a liar. A lot of reliable people told me they talked to him at United Fleet Management. They saw him there all the time. His partners are Yitbarek Syume and Constant Tony. You might not see Bekele's name anywhere on any United Fleet Management papers, but it's his money that's in it.

    One of the guys I know even had Bekele try to offer him a job. This guy went to buy his meter at United Fleet and he said Bekele came out himself and drive the car for the road test after someone else put the meter in. A lot of guys in the D.C. cab business know this guy, and Bekele did his homework before he planned to take over the D.C. cab business and make slaves out of the drivers, like Nichols does in VA and Barnes and Brentner in MD.

    Bekele's real proud he uses a lot of swear words when he talks. When these guys told me they saw Bekele at United Fleet, I asked them to describe the guy they thought was him. The physical descriptions were all about the same, but every driver said Bekele used a lot of swear words.

    Bekele likes to tell a lot of half truths. Yeah, he's in the insurance business, but he's also in the cab business. His plan to take it away from the hard working owner operator and put all the money in his pocket involves pricing out the owner operator.

    He's a bad man, and I hope he doesn't get to a couple of guys in this business. If he does, it's all over for us. If he gets to Lukitt at Capitol, John at Yellow, Lorenzo at Diamond or Mr. Field, wherever he is, we're in trouble. If he gets ahold of Mr. Field, Bekele will ruin Diamond. Mr. Field knows how to do it, and he's mad at Diamond anyhow for kicking him out.

    Bekele EFFED it up for the drivers in Atlanta. He wasn't happy just doing that, so know he has to EFF it up for us here, in D.C., the last major city in America where the drivers are still in control of the business.

    You Ethiopians who say good things about him should hear what he says about you. He calls you 'stupid' and a bunch of other swear words.

    I hope the Feds threaten Yitbarek Syume and Constant Tony with big nasty mean cellmates in Leavenworth if they don't rat out Bekele. Then, I hope they put Bekele in Leavenworth and throw away the key. At least kick him out of D.C. and send him back to Atlanta so he can live in the cesspool he's made out of the cab business there.

  • MESKY

    et me separate the fact from the fiction for you. It has been the fact that article are long on opinion and short on reality and facts.If you want to ruin the truth, stretch it they however, they can’t find anything on Mr. Bekele even if their eyes hypnotically glued to the giant telescope at Mt. Palomar! Mr. Bekele is very intelligent I have been moved and encouraged by his benevolence & generosity. His genuine warmth and enthusiasm to help his community is explicable. Obviously, his strategies for turning life’s roadblocks into a road map to success distress some people who are lacking in intelligence. .I am sure that the enemy is very busy, as well as the evil heart within. The mouth speaks out of that which fills the hear

    MESKY

  • Brokemoto

    Let us look at some facts and ponder some questions.

    Mr. Bekele sells insurance in Georgia, California, Ohio and the District of Columbia and maybe some other places.

    Mr. Bekele has stated that he is in the insurance business.

    Mr. Bekele has raised money for and contributed money to politicians in the District of Columbia.

    Mr. Bekele has reportedly been seen by more than a few people on more than a few occasions at United Fleet Management.

    Mr. Bekele has stated that he goes to United Fleet Management maybe three or four times per year.

    Mr. Bekele used to reside in Georgia.

    Mr. Bekele now resides in Potomac, Maryland, which is in Montgomery County, which is part of the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area.

    Why is Mr. Bekele suddenly interested in living in the Washington area?

    Why did Mr. Bekele leave Georgia?

    Why did Mr. Bekele choose to live in the Washington Area instead of the other jurisdictions where he sells insurance?

    What possessed Mr. Bekele to get involved in District of Columbia politics?

    Why did Mr. Bekele choose to get involved in D.C. Politics over Ohio or California politics, or even the local politics in the cities or towns of those states?

    No one spends one million dollars (at least) for a house in a given area without a reason (you can not touch a house in Potomac, Maryland for less than one million dollars).

    No one spends one million dollars on a house unless he intends to stay in it for some time.

    No one goes around passing out money to politicians without expecting something for it.

    A. Williams tried to get meters into the cabs.

    Mr. Bekele gave money to A. Williams' campaign.

    Fenty put meters into the cabs.

    Fenty calls the tunes at the Taxicab Commission.

    Fenty has not had much to say about insurance.

    Mr. Bekele helped to raise money for Fenty.

    J. Graham introduced legislation for medallions.

    J. Graham does not chair the City Council Committee that oversees the insurance business.

    J. Graham does chair the City Council Committee that oversees the taxicab business.

    Mr. Bekele helped to raise money for J. Graham.

    Are there any major cities in Georgia, Ohio, California or anywhere that Mr. Bekele sells insurance where the cab business is still largely in the hands of the individual owner-operators?

    Are there any major cities in Georgia, Ohio, California or anywhere that Mr. Bekele sells insurance where entry into the taxicab market is still open?

    Just some statements of facts and questions worth pondering.

  • baby never shady =)

    Mr.Bekele has one word that can describe him better than any word I've seen in a dictionary. That word folks is quite simply brilliant. When god closed one door on his quest for success in America he opened a window and let me tell you he sure jumped for it. The people writing, speaking negatively about Mr.Bekele are some of the most saddest, dumbest, moronic people on the face of the earth and beyond. If u actually make time to insult someone your basically a bunch of low life,unemployed, welfare having, subsidize home living bums and it is appalling that you can even afford internet access to comment. As for the reporter, my friend I'd get ready to clean out my office if i were you cause all your articles are trash and a bunch of lies my 8 year old cousin could come up with. Did you graduate with a major in lying???? or a double major in dumb...... You decide buddy. You are very good in presenting incomplete truth which in "college" terms means you are a liar and a fraud and you do anything to get a story. not today buddy. Im standin by mr.Bekele as he is the best person in our ethiopian community and he has dedicated so much to his work and all of you bums commenting won't have a chance in holy hell to become half as successful as him. Good day to you and have a pleasant night you BUMS!!!

  • Ralph Tomlinson

    How many of Bekele's relatives have read this article and these comments? Or is it just one person? If it's that, how many email accounts does he have? Alot of these comments saying Bekele's wonderful look like it's the same one writing them.

    Or maybe Bekele's writing them or at least telling the people what to write.

    I don't know, but the comments saying he's wonderful don't look too real.

  • AA

    Negative people and their thoughts are the enemies of victorious life. Since their life is very much determined by their mind, their thoughts can make or break their life. Obviously, their negative thoughts are distracting them to focus on significant aspect of life. At the end, they will no longer have the ingredients necessary for success. Evidently, they are annoyed by Mr. Bekele success. I don't have time to distinguish between the unfortunate and the incompetent who talk rubbish about Mr. Bekele their negative opinions portray those best! Their Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo!!! When a man lifts you up, it's definitely to the height of his hands; however GOD lifts Mr. Bekele up its limitless forever!!! God’s blessings will never come down because of their extreme hate. There attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by their stupidity. Mr. Bekele doesn’t have time to deal with people experiencing much below the level of thinking. They just need to blame their outer layer of Gray matter in the cerebrum!
    AA

  • Jambo

    Shame , Shame , Shame Beke I am not realy surprised when i read this article no one forget on KINIJIT time you sold 10000pcs of pin (Ethiopian flag pin)each $10.00 you collect and put on your pocket i heard from the CPA auditor Tesfaye.Cheap.

  • Habesha

    I accidentally saw this article, I had no idea what so ever, hapened, but I know one thing, Mr. Solomon Bekele is a very kind and positive gentleman.
    I know he got involved in politics out of love for his country and people. I know he has no other intention, cause he got everything he needs. Even if he wants to make more money, the money he has is enough to (generate}make more money.
    Comon peopl, get a life, leave him alone and try to make it on your own. Let us not drag down the few successful people, who worked hard to get where they are now. And am sure if you work hard like he did you will make it with Gods help.
    Mr. Bekele, you are one of a kind, we will pray for you,
    may the good Lord bless you.

  • Paulos

    WHY IS THAT MORAL DECAY IS SPREADING THROUGH OUR POLITICIANS AND OUR SOCIETY?

    So what has really happened to Ethiopian-Americans politics and the so-called politicians? Did we really lose our traditional morality? No, we were the victims of our own backward politics and untrained politicians we chose and trusted to lead us. It’s a sign of our spiritual and moral decay that we expect so much as a people from politics, selfish and power hungry politicians like Ayele Chamiso, Lidetu and now, Hailu Shawul who betrayed us and that we are so much less capable of seeing through their obvious and self-serving machinations.

    I believe that this stems from the decline of the Christian religion; without some hope in the next world and some balanced sense of the human good in light of eternal life, politics assumes exaggerated importance. It becomes the only hope of community, human unity, the alleviation of pain and suffering and injustice. We do not only put too much faith in politicians but also blindly followed individuals like them as cults and forget that it’s a prosaic task often undertaken by venal people. Our nation is tainted with crimes against God and humanity where human rights are systematically violated, resulting in the disappearance and death of over 6,000,000 Ethiopians since TPLF seized power without being elected by the people & for the people of Ethiopia. It was winner takes all auction or political theft made between the dictatorial Derg regime and TPLF Bandits. We cannot anymore stand as mere spectators of dismal and flagrant display of historical failures to bring a very genuine social, economic and political reforms in Ethiopia. The lying politicians especially like Lidetu and Hailu and their media talking heads and the I know-it-all commentators or writers who supported them are tying to confuse the issue, to justify their ideological and practical impotence, their immorality, which has allowed a continuous rain of betrayals without any serious attempt to end it immediately and by all means. It is now, Zemene GrimbiT indeed!

    Their reaction shows how the perversion of moral values in Ethiopia and in the Diasporas has reached such a level that Ethiopian citizens are treated as cannon fodder, as peons to be used and transferred at will, peons in an immoral political process of sheer surrender in the face of TPLF’s state terrorism, of concessions, appeasement and self-destruction. Only a very harsh response to every attack against us a very painful and bloody response against the other side – can decrease the other side's appetite to attack us and can save human lives.Mr. Solomon and his partner Mrs. Ethiopia have a lot of experience so they always make a sensible decision.

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