Taxi Bribery Suspect to be Released from Jail

Prosecutors argued that Syume was a danger to the community

By Asha Beh
|  Saturday, Oct 10, 2009  |  Updated 11:29 AM EDT
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Tapes Reveal Death Threats, More in Taxi Bribery Case

The Washington Post

Accused taxi bribery scheme ringleader Yitbarek Syume

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Tapes Reveal Death Threats, More in Taxi Bribery Case

Prosecutors say the suspect is talking about murder.
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Yitbarek Syume, the alleged ringleader in the D.C. taxi bribery scheme, will be moved from prison to a halfway house on judge's orders.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson ordered Syume's release from jail despite prosecutors' attempts to show that Syume is a danger to the community. Secretly recorded conversations, in which Syume threatens the life of an FBI informant, were played in court Thursday and Friday, but did not sway the judge.

Syume's lawyer, Thomas Abbenante, argued that his client had a stable home and no history of violence, according to The Washington Post.

During the conversation that was played in court Thursday, Syume tells D.C. Taxicab Commission chairman Leon Swain and an undercover FBI agent posing as Swain's nephew that he [Syume] is going to "eliminate [Abdulaziz] Kamus."

The day before the meeting, which took place in a Southeast Washington parking lot, D.C. Councilman Jim Graham's chief of staff, Ted Loza, was arrested and Kamus' role as an undercover informant was revealed.

Syume, whose voice is not as clear as Swain's on the tapes, does not seem happy with Kamus and tells Swain that Kamus will be eliminated.

Prosecutor John Crabb noted that in prior telephone conversations (one of “thousands” recorded, Crabb said) that Syume had threatened to “put a bullet in Mr. Kamus’ head” and had made “veiled-type threats” against Swain, Washington City Paper reported.

Loza, Syume and more than 30 others have been accused in taking part in the scam to illegally obtain taxi licenses in the District, which prosecutors say included more than $300,000 in bribes during a two-year period.

Listen to the secretly recorded conversation here.
 

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