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