Loose Lips

Main Wheel in Taxi Corruption Case Sentenced to 41 Months

Yibarek Syume, the mastermind behind the widespread D.C. taxi corruption case that brought down Ted Loza, the former chief of staff to Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham, was sentenced to 41 months in prison today.

Two co-conspirators, Berhane Leghesse and Amanuel Ghirmazion, were sentenced to 12 months and eight months, respectively. Earlier this week, Abdul Kamus, another co-conspirator, was sentenced to 12 months.

Loza, who's pictured above, was sentenced to eight months in prison last summer after pleading guilty to taking $1,500 in gratuities. Loza is currently an innate at Moshannon Valley Correctional Institute in Philisburg, Pa.

All things considered, it sure looks like Loza got a pretty sweet deal compared to everyone else.

Consider:  Syume, Leghesse, Ghirmazion, and Kamus all cooperated with authorities once they were arrested. Loza did not. (Instead, he whined: "I'm innocent. This is bullshit.") Kamus was especially cooperative: He got Loza on camera taking cash and even set up meetings between Loza, Graham, and an undercover FBI agent, court records show.

Syume, Leghesse, Ghirmazion, and Kamus were never entrusted with a position of public trust. Loza, by virtue of his position as a top-level council staffer, was.

According to prosecutors, Loza took much more than the $1,500 he eventually copped to. In court records filed a few days ago, the U.S. Attorney's Office said the co-conspirators gave "cash, trips, and other gifts worth approximately $25,000" to Loza. Prosecutors also say that Loza planned, once he'd left Graham's office, to join a taxi company some of the co-conspirators had formed in hopes of cashing in on the legislative changes they were pushing with Loza's help.

Joanne Roney Hepworth, the lawyer for Leghesse, says it "stinks" that her client got a stiffer punishment than Loza.

All in all, the takeaway here appears to be that public officials are held to a different standard when it comes to corruption cases. Unfortunately, it's a lower standard.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • dcvoterboy

    I'm guessing you meant that Loza is an "inmate" and not "innate" while he's enjoying his time at Moshannon Valley Correctional Institute...

  • Daniel Wolkoff

    The taxi's in DC were a local institution. They were great old guys, cheap fares, and you could do multiple fares. The intrusive busy bodies of the failed DC govt. the buffoons on the city council have never stopped screwing the taxi industry. Emporer Brat Adrienne destroyed the fare system, and the efficient and fuel conserving multiple passengers. Gray wants to hand over the industry to big companies with the medallions, and screw all the "salt of the earth" little guys. Mary Cheh , needs to mess them up by painting all the taxis the same color, proboably the most ridiculous and simply stupid thing of all, for it's shear homogenizing and uselessness. Doesn't the Chair of the Environment Committee know about the fumes from all that unnecessary painting. The counsel is a farce, a bad parody of competent leadership..What would these rich hacks know about the life of real people like the taxi drivers. The drivers barely eak out a living, work hard, send money back to their home countries to support the family.
    Let the hacks of the DC City Council back off and dissappear,, We need to support a real representative govt. like every other american has,, a constituent assembly. Put the city council out of it's misery, it's a government that is harmful to your health.

  • Truth hurts

    Graham got the sweetest deal. He slithers on.

  • james

    And possibly, unlike Mr Loza, the conspirators could be subject to deportation after completion of their sentences if they are not US citizens...

  • http://letschange.org Respected Citizens

    Jim Graham also went on those special trips with his close close friend, Ted Loza, who acquired a Chief of Staff Position in the DC government as he upheld only a GREEN CARD.

    Can someone explain how City Council allowed Graham to hire a man w/o his citizenship to earn a job of this stature via our DC tax-dollars.

    On the other hand, what does this really say about the level of closeness between between Teddy and Ms. Graham.

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