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D.C. Businessmen Indicted For Allegedly Bribing Officials For Taxicab Licenses

The Chengs are said to have bribed their way into getting around a moratorium on taxicab licenses.
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The Chengs are said to have bribed their way into getting around a moratorium on taxicab licenses.

D.C. businessman Anthony Cheng and his son Anthony Cheng, Jr. were indicted by a federal grand jury today for allegedly bribing two D.C. officials in order to gain licenses to operate taxicabs in the city.

According to information provided by the office of U.S. Attorney for D.C. Ron Machen, the father-and-son duo attempted to work their way around a moratorium on taxicab licenses in 2009 and 2010 by offering bribes to both the D.C. Taxicab Commissioner and an official with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs who was actually an undercover FBI agent.

The Chengs were said to have offered the Taxicab Commissioner, then Leon Swain, 10 percent of any money made from the two taxicab companies they sought to operate. They also gave him $1,500 along with paperwork that was backdated to before the moratorium went into effect. They also gave the undercover FBI official $250 in cash in exchange for backdated certificates of occupancy.

The father-and-son duo eventually obtained the licenses, though they never used them. The elder Cheng is the owner of Tony Cheng's Mongolian Restaurant in Chinatown, while his son operates an interstate bus company.

“Today’s indictment charges Tony Cheng and his son with paying cash bribes to two different government officials,” said Machen in a statement. “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.”

This isn't the first time that allegations of graft and corruption have surfaced in relation to the city's taxicab industry. During his tenure, Swain worked as an FBI informant in a years-long investigation into bribery. As part of the investigation, he took $250,000 from individuals seeking to control the city's taxicab industry.

The indictment is yet another move by Machen, who has aggressively investigated corruption in D.C. over the last three years. In June alone he has gotten guilty pleas from former D.C. Council member Michael Brown for bribery and from Lee Calhoun and Stanley Straughter for participating in a straw donation scheme spearheaded by businessman Jeffrey Thompson.

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