City Paper is not for tourists
LL just emerged from an impromptu press gaggle held by Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham. His longtime aide Ted Loza was arrested today on bribery charges after being videotaped accepting $1,500 in bribes to push a bill allowing hybrid taxicabs in the city.
Graham says he is “deeply troubled at the indictment of Teddy Loza…someone I have grown to trust and have confidence in.”
He denied having any participation in any scheme to trade money for legislative favors: “I have had no engagement whatsoever in any illegal or unethical behaviors,” adding that Loza “has never to my recollection spoken to me about any element of any taxicab bill I was considering.”
Some early questions:
What is the involvement of United Fleet Management, Prisma Communications, and Fiesta D.C.?
According to a search warrant served this afternoon at Graham’s office, federal investigators are interested in documents related to these three firms. Prisma Communications is a Hispanic-owned Adams Morgan advertising and graphic design outfit; a person who answered the phone there today says that they’ve never had any business dealings with Loza, Graham, or Graham’s office. United Fleet Management is a firm that handles operations for small taxicab operators; a call to its offices this afternoon reached the voicemail of Causton Toney, a former Williams administration official who served as chair of the D.C. Taxicab Commission. Fiesta D.C. is an outfit that puts on an annual Latino festival in Ward 1. Graham has sent several earmarks to the organization over the years; most recently, he proposed sending the group $200,000 in the 2010 budget, though that earmark was stripped. In the budget year just ending, the group did receive $200,000.
Who are ‘Individual Number 1,’ ‘Individual Number 2,’ and ‘Staffer Number 1’?
Staffer No. 1 is someone who works in Graham’s council office (more likely, his committee office) and works on taxicab issues; there is no indication in the indictment document that this person is involved in any illegal activity. Individual No. 1 is the prime mover in the bribery transactions, having been recorded on two occasions handing money to Loza. He says he is “working with the taxicab small owners regarding…the legislation with the hybrid cars.” It is not clear whether this person was cooperating with the federal investigators. Individual No. 2 is not caught on tape; Individual No. 1 is recorded saying that this person “has a lot of money to invest in D.C.” and has an interest in getting an exception to the taxi license moratorium. No. 1 says the cash was coming from No. 2 as well.
Who dropped a dime?
There is no early word on whether Individuals Nos. 1 or 2 were cooperating with authorities, though it seems unlikely they would have been unaware that No. 1’s conversations with Loza were being recorded by authorities. One intriguing possibility: If No. 1 was working with “taxicab small owners,” they might have reason to embarrass Graham, who has been no friend to cab owners, large or small, in recent years. Were they pissed enough to call the feds? Who knows?
What motive did Loza have to take a bribe, and what was his relationship to Graham?
In the killer quote of the whole indictment, Loza says to his briber, “You know I need it. That’s why I take it you know.” Graham said today he didn’t know of any financial or other personal pressures on Loza. Here’s an interesting fact: According to property records, Graham
holds once held a one-percent interest in Loza’s home in Columbia Heights starting in 2002. In 2007, he granted that ownership stake to Loza and co-owner Ligia X. Munoz.