Loose Lips

Tony Cheng and Son Indicted Over Taxi Bribery Scheme

Politically connected Chinatown restaurateur Tony Cheng and his son have been charged with bribing public officials to get taxi licenses.

Cheng and his son, Anthony R. Cheng Jr., wanted licenses to operate cab companies, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office. In an attempt to get around a moratorium on new licenses, they allegedly started planning in November 2010 to bribe officials to get the businesses started anyway.

In 2011, prosecutors say, the two offered the head of the D.C. Taxicab Commission 10 percent of their eventual profits and $1,500 for helping set up the companies. Cheng's son also allegedly bribed a Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs employee with $250. The person the younger Cheng allegedly thought was a DCRA employee, though, was actually an FBI agent. Although they eventually obtained the licenses, they never opened the cab companies.

Cheng has been a player in D.C. politics for decades, frequently in the orbit of Marion Barry. In 1998, the FBI planned to use him as a middleman in an abortive attempt to catch Barry on video accepting a bribe. Last year, Barry met with Cheng in an attempt to minimize the damage over Barry's "dirty Asian shops" remark. Cheng, his son, and his companies have contributed at least $14,650 to District campaigns, according to Office of Campaign Finance records.

Ken Robinson, the Chengs' attorney, wasn't immediately available for comment. But Robinson tells the Post that his clients will fight the charges. Authorities want Cheng to cooperate in an investigation into Mayor Vince Gray and members of the D.C. Council, according to Robinson, but Cheng refused.

The charges against the Chengs raise an interesting question: who was the Taxicab Commission chair the Chengs allegedly met with? The indictment doesn't name the person, but the timeline—"early 2011"—would suggest former chairman Leon Swain, who was fired in April 2011. But that would be odd, because Swain's negative opinion of bribes was already well-known by then—the last time someone offered him a bribe, he told the FBI.

Swain tells LL he was aware of the investigation, but declined to comment further.

Update, 4:10 p.m.: Swain confirms to LL that he was the taxicab chairman in the indictment. Which, given Swain's history of telling law enforcement about bribe offers, makes you wonder what the Chengs were allegedly thinking.

The Cheng indictment:

Press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office:

WASHINGTON – Anthony C. Y. Cheng, Sr., and his son, Anthony R. Cheng, Jr., were indicted by a federal grand jury today on charges stemming from a scheme to bribe public officials to illegally obtain licenses and generate business opportunities for multi-vehicle taxicab companies, announced U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. and Valerie Parlave, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

Cheng, 65, and his son, 39, were indicted by a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Both were indicted on one count each of conspiracy to commit bribery and payment of a bribe to a public official. Anthony Cheng Jr. also was indicted on a second count of payment of a bribe to a public official. The conspiracy charge carries a statutory maximum of five years in prison and financial penalties. The bribery charge carries a statutory maximum of 10 years of incarceration as well as financial penalties.

According to the indictment, Anthony Cheng Sr. is the owner of businesses, including Tony Cheng’s Mongolian Restaurant, in the Chinatown area of Washington, D.C. Anthony Cheng Jr. owned a bus company that provided interstate transportation to the public.

The indictment alleges that the Chengs conspired from November 2010 through June 2011 to obtain licenses for multi-vehicle taxicab companies. At the time, a legislatively mandated moratorium was in place prohibiting the issuance of any new business licenses to operate new taxicab companies, taxicab associations and limousine businesses.

The Chengs allegedly sought to circumvent the moratorium by using falsified backdated corporate documents representing that their taxicab companies had been in existence since 2009. According to the indictment, they attempted to carry out their scheme by approaching, among others, a person described in the indictment as “Public Official Number One,” a public official who at the time chaired the District of Columbia Taxicab Commission. They also approached a person they believed was an official with the District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, described in the indictment as “Public Official Number Two;” unbeknownst to them, the indictment states, this person actually was an undercover FBI Special Agent.

During meetings in early 2011, “Public Official Number One” told the Chengs about the moratorium, the indictment alleges. The Chengs, meanwhile, agreed to pay “Public Official Number One” 10 percent of profits from their business endeavors, the indictment states. They allegedly collected and forwarded to “Public Official Number One” applications to corruptly obtain licenses for multi-cab companies. Anthony Cheng Jr. provided “Public Official Number One” with backdated paperwork, and Anthony Cheng Sr. provided him with $1,500 in cash to obtain the licenses, the indictment alleges.

The indictment alleges that Cheng Jr. met in March 2011 with “Public Official Number Two” and provided him with $250 in cash in return for backdated certificates of occupancy for two multi-vehicle taxicab companies.

The Chengs obtained two licenses for multi-cab companies – named Green Top Cab and ECO CAB Company – but never opened the businesses.

“Today’s indictment charges Tony Cheng and his son with paying cash bribes to two different government officials,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “We cannot tolerate the culture of pay-to-play in the District of Columbia. This prosecution demonstrates our commitment to holding accountable the businessmen who entice public officials to violate the public trust.”

“Bribery and kickbacks, such as those alleged in today’s indictments, have no place in our government,” said Assistant Director in Charge Parlave. “We will continue to diligently work to protect the integrity of our government by pursuing those who seek to violate the system through such corruption.”

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal laws and every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.

In announcing the charges, U.S. Attorney Machen and Assistant Director in Charge Parlave commended the efforts of those who worked on the case from the FBI’s Washington Field Office. They also commended the work of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lionel André and Loyaan A. Egal, who are prosecuting the case.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

Comments

  1. #1

    Interesting.
    The Feds could dig deeper on Tony Cheng. There's sure to be more there. Maybe inner city buses and property for starters.

  2. #2

    This is a HOT MESS! Sick of DC politricks!

  3. #3

    Drez, Just shut the heck up!!!!!
    Any Feds worth their creds ARE busy digging deeper into your friend Fenty's interesting past. There is sure to be much more there. What Machen finds in Fenty's closet will make Jeffrey Thompson look like a choir boy.

  4. #4

    Fenty,fenty,fenty,blah blah blah. You'll be spouting the same tired hollow dumbass crap until you die ... what a pathetic life ... devoid of rationality.

  5. #5

    "Authorities want Cheng to cooperate in an investigation into Mayor Vince Gray and members of the D.C. Council, according to Robinson, but Cheng refused." - SO LET ME SEE IF I UNDERSTAND THIS?? THE U.S. ATTY FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA IS ENGAGED IN PRACTICES TO SET UP SHADY CHARACTERS WITH QUESTIONABLE PASTS, THAT ARE ANKLE DEEP IN DC POLITRICKS, WITH THESE PETTY CRIMES THAT ARE BEING LEVELED ARE BASICALLY OUT ON THE PERIPHERY, IN THE HOPES OF FINDING A DIRECT CONNECTION OF ILLEGAL ACTIVITY INVOLVING THE CURRENT MAYOR?

    THIS SHIT REMINDS ME OF ONE OF THOSE 70'S DETECTIVE SHOWS.
    RON MACHEN & THE FBI STARRING AS BARETTA
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRa9uhiAPBs

    THE WORDS TO THE THEME SONG ARE TELLING!!!!

    ONE CITY.

  6. #6

    @noodlez, you are right. This whole investigation is beginning to turn for the worst. Brother Machen is a much better person than this. What happened?

    I will be damned!

  7. #7

    noodlez. You're an idiot

  8. #8

    GoldCoastKid, what the hell kind of name is that.

    Some ole plastic azz negro.

  9. #9

    I prosecute corruption, not color.
    - R. Machen.

  10. #10

    @GOLD-NAME CALLING OUT THE BOX FIRST THING THIS MORN? SLIM DONT BE MAD AT THE WORLD BECAUSE YOU FOUND OUT YOUR DADDY WAS A LIL TARDY ON THE PULL OUT AND REALIZE THAT YOU WASNT PLANNED BUT JUST SOME HAPPENSTANCE BETWEEN 2 INTOXICATED DUMBASSES. YOUR ANGER IS JUSTIFIED IT JUST NEED TO BE REFOCUSED IN ANOTHER DIRECTION.

    @REZ-THEN HE SHOULD PROSECUTE CORRUPTION DON'T CREATE IT! THE DC ELECTORATE ARE NOT STUPID. I CAN SEE IT NOW! MACHEN BRINGS CHARGES AGAINST MAYOR GRAY FOR THROWING THE SOFTBALL GAME BECAUSE HE CHOSE TO GO TO HAND DANCING REUNION INSTEAD. THE STING EVIDENCE IS DAMNING WITH STILL PHOTOS OF MAYOR GRAY ACCEPTING HAND DANCING TICKETS FROM SOME SILVER FOX, J.EDGAR HOOVER BLDG SECRETARY. TICKETS ARE VALUED AT $21.50 WHICH IS ABOVE GIFT VALUE RATE.

    ALSO CAN I ALSO SUBMIT THAT THIS MARKETING PLOY OF KEEPING MAYOR GRAY CONSTANTLY IN THE NEWS LOOP WITH ASSOCIATING WORDS LIKE; INVESTIGATING, INDICTING AND CORRUPTION WILL IN THE END HAVE THE OPPOSITE AFFECT OF THOSE WHO ARE PERPETRATING THIS BULL SHIT. JUST SAYING

    YO BROTHER MACHEN WHERE IS THE $12K COLNAGO FENTY RECEIVED FOR BRINGING RACE TO DC? INVESTIGATE THAT!

    ONE CITY.

  11. #11

    noodlez
    The Colnago was given to Mayor Fenty by Ernesto Colnago, a very famous and respected Italian businessman who neither had nor has any business before the city.
    No rules - none at all- were broken in that event.
    There's legal and then there's illegal.
    Learn the rules and follow them.

  12. #12

    REALLY DREZ? I THOUGHT A STAGE OF THE GIRO ITALIA WAS HELD HERE?

    ALSO WHY DID HE GIVE FENTY A $12K BIKE INSTEAD OF DONATING $12K WORTH OF BIKES TO THE CITY?

  13. #13

    They were going to hold the opening stage here, but did not.
    The Giro is put on by the Italian Government and a promotional company.
    Ernesto Colnago is not associated with either of them. He's a private citizen who is famous for his hand built racing bikes.
    As to why Ernesto gave a bike to the Mayor, that is legally immaterial as no laws were broken on either the giving or the accepting. If you know of any legal opinion to the contrary please provide a link.

  14. #14

    @drez,

    Is it also legal for fenty's operatives to have stuffed the home mailboxes of some his campaign workers with cash?

  15. #15

    I am still trying to figure out how Michael Brown lost so much weight so fast.

    I mean the man was paid over a 100,000.00 a year for years for part-time work. And worked for a law firm on the side.

    Yet he could not pay something as simple as parking tickets, taxes or his rent.

    Was the cause of his weight lose fatigue or drug addiction?

  16. #16

    All of this to try to get Mayor Gray, really

  17. #17

    Suffice it to say the lack of insight exhibited by two truly challenged individuals on this blog is absolutely amazing.

    And Yes, saywhat14.
    All of this to try to get Mayor Vincent C. Gray.
    For all of his tough talk about growing up in the hood, I'd be willing to bet he led a sheltered life and I would be very surprised to find he chanced going to jail for such petty doings as have been alleged.

    Fenty too led a sheltered life. I would NOT be surprised to find he didn't want to be re-elected because he had allowed himself to be used to enrich his benefactors and his low life friends. He had enough ill gotten loot and didn't want to chance being caught and sent to prison where the loot would do him absolutely no good at all. He probably hopes he could be placed in the same place Moten will be placed for protection again.

    Let me use the feinty one's name again: Was it legal for him to accept the $12k bike? I had to turn in a $100 cashmere hoodie. Hurt me to my heart. I looked for another one for years and never found it.

  18. #18

    I had to turn in a $100 cashmere hoodie. Hurt me to my heart. I looked for another one for years and never found it.

    The rule of thumb for gifts is this: If you are a government employee or city official you should not accept anything of potential monetary value from anyone who has business before the city. In Fenty's case, Ernesto Colnago had no business before the city. The Giro is run by the Italian Government and a contracted promotional company. Not Ernesto Colnago or his bicycle company. The gift was "arm's length" and therefore clean.
    Whoever gave you that cashmere hoodie apparently did have or did want business with DC. That's the difference. There's no need to make it personal. It's not about you, or me, or Fenty. It's about following the law.

  19. #19

    I seem to be stuck in the moderation queue.

  20. #20

    @mizwillis, you are right on point. And don't worry about those two low lifers on this blog.

    Anytime a black person speak truth and have any sort of influence with their own then here comes the opposition. It's the nature of the beasts. And when it comes to those two fake ass white liberals who professed to care about black folks, I mean beasts quite literally.

  21. #21

    "I seem to be stuck in the moderation queue."

    One can only hope.

  22. #22

    "All of this to try to get Mayor Vincent C. Gray."

    ...not to run for mayor.

  23. #23

    Ron Machen doesn't seem at all interested in a legitimate case against the Mayor, he is, rather, more concerned with public defamation in hopes that that, alone, will derail him. Very transparent and lazy.

  24. #24

    DREZ-YOU AND YOUR TECHNICALITIES. WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD COLNAGO GIVE FENTY A TOP OF THE LINE BIKE?

    SO THE TOP ITALIAN BIKE MAKER, WHO IS A SPONSOR OF A BIKE RACE FOR THE GOV'T OF ITALY, WHO WANTS TO HAVE A LEG OF SAID RACE HELD IN WASHINGTON DC, WHOSE MAYOR(AT THE TIME)WAS AN AVID CYCLIST, CAN GIVE THE MAYOR A GIFT OF A BIKE VALUED OVER $12K?

    THAT SOUNDS LIKE BRIBERY TO ME? THERE IS NOTHING DIFFERENT FROM BASKETBALL BROWN'S SITUATION THAN FROM FAGGIE FENTY'S. ACCEPTING MONEY/GIFTS FOR INFLUENCE! FENTY WORKED FOR THE CITY SO ANY GAINS SHOULD HAVE BEEN CITY GAINS NOT PERSONAL GAINS.

    YO BROTHER RON WHERE IS THE BIKE NOW?????

  25. #25

    I'm still in the queue. Up at comment #13.

    noodlez. No financial interest means exactly that. It's not a technicality. It's the letter of the law.

  26. #26

    Now in moderation at #13 and #25.

  27. #27

    Solved...for now. WordPress is mysterious about what it publishes immediately and what it moderates.

  28. #28

    Thanks Will

  29. #29

    Can anyone tell me why mizwillis is so hostile? Still trying to figure out whether he/she is a man or a woman. That might add some insight. If shim is a man, he's probably not getting any. If shim is a woman; oh well it is the end of the month. Drez, offer a maxi pad.

  30. #30

    Man look at this foolishness.

    mizwillis has indicated that she is a older black person with great concerns for this city. And now she is being attacked by a bunch of white punks and some weak black faggot because she offers her good and impressive opinions.

    !

  31. #31

    You are not going to do this to her because I am not going to let you.

    Pick on someone your own size. PUNKS!

  32. #32

    You're a real big man Tony.

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    [...] Chinatown restaurant owner Tony Cheng, son indicted in bribery scheme (Washington [...]

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    [...] Tony Cheng is many things: restaurateur, family man, political donor, pear farmer, aspiring medical marijuana entrepreneur. But if a federal indictment returned Tuesday is any indication, he is not a great consumer of local news. In the course of trying to enter the taxi business, a grand jury has found, Cheng and his son paid bribes in early 2011 to then Taxi Commission Chairman Leon Swain Jr. to secure then-impossible-to-get licenses. Now that name might be familiar now, as it would have been back in 2011: Swain was then less than two years removed from playing a key role as an FBI informant in a previous bribery probe that netted a D.C. Council staff member. Swain’s role was well established: This reporter called him a “whistleblower hero” in 2009, and Swain himself went on TV cameras later that year to pronounce himself unbribeable. Apparently Cheng, whose lawyer vows to fight the charges, did not get the memo. More from Loose Lips, WAMU-FM, WaTimes, DCist, WJLA-TV and AP. [...]

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