Taxi Bribe Suspect Accused of Threatening to Kill Informant

Suspect also suggested destroying evidence of payoffs

By Matthew Stabley
|  Wednesday, Oct 7, 2009  |  Updated 2:53 PM EDT
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Taxi Bribe Suspect Accused of Threatening to Kill Informant

The Washington Post

Yitbarek Syume

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WASHINGTON -- One of the suspected ring leaders in the D.C. taxi bribe scandal asked an informant to destroy evidence and threatened to kill another informant, according to court documents.

The day after D.C. Councilman Jim Graham's chief of staff, Ted Loza, was arrested on bribery charges a couple of weeks ago, Yitbarek Syume was recorded talking to an informant and an undercover FBI agent about how to cover their tracks, The Washington Post reported. Syume suggested the informant destroy records of payoffs and talked of killing the informant who wore a recording device when he offered Loza $1,500 in bribes, according to prosecutors.

Syume and two others are accused of paying $10,000 per multi-vehicle taxi company license -- a total of $220,000 in bribes -- to Taxicab Commission Chairman Leon Swain. The licenses became more valuable when the D.C. Council passed a moratorium on issuing new ones a year ago. Syume and 36 cab drivers are accused of paying a total of $110,000 in bribes to get individual operator licenses.

Swain had been working with the feds since he was first approached about payoffs after taking the position about two years ago.

Loza is accused of accepting cash and gifts in order to promote that license moratorium and legislation to create a medallion taxi system, which would offer license exemptions for eco-friendly and/or wheelchair-accessible taxis. Loza's boss is the chairman of the council's Committee on Public Works and Transportation, which oversees the Taxicab Commission.

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