CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The tentacles of the corruption investigation of Charlotte’s former Mayor Patrick Cannon are growing.
The operators of two Charlotte taxicab companies say they were approached separately by a man asking for $10,000 each in exchange for former City Councilman Patrick Cannon’s help in securing lucrative contracts at Charlotte Douglas Airport.
It was 2011 and all but three taxicab companies had lost their spots at the airport. They’d been shut out by a maneuver that limited the number of taxicab companies by contract. And it had cost them a lot of money.
That’s when the owners of Royal Cab and Universal Cab say they were approached by a man named “Zack” Kacho.
“He came and he took me in the back office and closed the door and then he wanted to talk,” said Naheed Kashmary, an owner of Royal Cab, who said Kacho’s secretive demeanor immediately raised his suspicion.
Naheed Kashmary had known Kacho for years – since he had driven a cab for a competitor. But Kacho had an offer.
“He said if you and other companies donate $10,000 each to Mr. Patrick Cannon’s campaign fund then you guys will be back at the airport,” said Kashmary.
Kacho was running a web server company. So how did he know Kacho was actually representing Cannon and not just blowing smoke?
“Because Zack showed me a lot of papers with him and he called him (Cannon) in front of me and he showed me the e-mails,” Kashmary said.
And Kashmary is not the only cabbie who now says Kacho approached him.
Universal Cab owner Mohamed Moustafah says Kacho called him to his office on Fairview Road late at night and let him in a side entrance.
“He said if you want me to start working for you (on the airport deal) it will be ten thousand dollars to start,” said Moustafa. And did he say where the money was going? “He said he’d talk to city council and see how much it cost to get me back there.”
Moustafa said Kacho did not mention Cannon or individual city council members.
Both Royal and Universal desperately wanted to get back to the airport and its reliable taxicab business. But neither man says he took Kacho up on his offer.
Kashmary said he called his attorney who told him it would be a crime and strongly advised against it.
“I looked at my wife and she said, ‘This guy is a crook’ and I never talked to him again,” he said.
And sure enough Zack Kacho did turn out to be a crook – although he was not convicted of being a bag man.
Instead he’s being held in the Mecklenburg County Jail awaiting sentencing on federal charges for burning down the home of a private investigator.
There is no proof to date that Kacho represented Cannon.
But Kashmary said Kacho turned down a legit campaign contribution he offered.
“I asked Mr. Zack, ‘Can I give you a little check for a couple hundred and he said no he could only take cash.”
Patrick Cannon is free on bond, charged with accepting bribes totaling $48,000 from undercover federal agents.