Ex-CEO of company in red light camera bribery scandal indicted - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Ex-CEO of company in red light camera bribery scandal indicted

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CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

The former CEO of the company at the heart of Chicago's red light camera bribery scandal has been indicted by a federal grand jury.

Karen Finley — the 54-year-old former boss of Redflex Traffic Systems — was indicted Wednesday, three months after city worker John Bills was charged with soliciting bribes to help Redflex win the city's lucrative red light camera contract, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

Bills was also indicted Wednesday, as was his pal Martin O'Malley, who allegedly funneled kickbacks to Bills.

A 23-count indictment alleges that Redflex officials, including Finley, paid Bills $570,000 cash and gave him other perks including a Arizona condo and a used Mercedes in exchange for Bills' steering contracts that grew to $124 million to Redflex.

Finley, of Arizona, was Redflex's chief executive from 2005 through February last year, and its vice president of operations from 2001.

She's charged with nine counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud, three counts of federal program bribery, and one count of conspiracy to commit federal program bribery.

O'Malley, 73, of south suburban Worth, who was an independent contractor for Redflex, was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit federal program bribery.

Bills, 53, of Chicago, was indicted on nine counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud, three counts of federal program bribery, three counts of filing a false federal income tax return, and one count each of extortion and conspiracy to commit federal program bribery.

U.S Attorney Zach Fardon said in a news release that the indictments showed that “When public officials peddle influence for profit, the consequences are severe, and when corporate executives enable that corruption, the same rule applies.

“We will attack alleged public corruption from every angle.”

A city employee for 32 years, Bills moonlighted as a clubhouse assistant with the Chicago White Sox and served as a member of the red light camera contract evaluation committee. He retired as managing deputy commissioner of the city's transportation department in 2011.

Super Bowl tickets, golf outings, a laptop, a boat, his children's school fees, a retirement party — even his girlfriend's mortgage and his own divorce attorney — were all also likely paid for with cash the former managing deputy commissioner of the city's transportation department received, according to a federal complaint unsealed in May.

And Wednesday's indictment places Finley at the center of the alleged corrupt deals — alleging she helped O'Malley get the job which he used to funnel payments back to Bills, and covered up the conflict of interest.

Redflex was last year fired by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and banned from bidding for contracts, after the Chicago Tribune disclosed Bills' relationship with the firm. Emanuel said in May that his actions proves he has “zero tolerance for corruption and has worked to change the culture at City Hall.”

But evidence of unexplained spikes in tickets issued at intersections since then means the red light program remains a political headache for Emanuel.

The cameras were touted as a safety measure by former Mayor Richard M. Daley. Installed at accident-prone intersections beginning in 2003, they pumped out a high of 791,111 tickets in 2009.

Bills was painted in the May complaint as a slick operator who knew how to take advantage of his position in charge of the camera program.

“It's time to make good,” he allegedly warned Redflex executives as they celebrated Redflex's first Chicago contract together at a Los Angeles restaurant in 2003. Bills had sabotaged the contract bid of a rival company, the complaint alleges. Though cameras installed for a comparison test by Redflex and the rival both had patchy results, Bills allegedly only showed the city's contract evaluation committee good photos captured by Redflex cameras and bad photos taken by the rival's cameras.

He then arranged seating for the vote so that committee members he knew would support Redflex voted first, placing pressure on members voting later to back Redflex, the complaint states.

In the years that followed, Bills allegedly helped Redflex win more contracts and eventually install a total of 384 cameras — more than any other city in the U.S.

Redflex funneled payments to him through O'Malley, who bought him a $177,000 condo, and picked up the tab for his retirement party at the end of his 32-year career in 2011, it's alleged.

And upon his retirement, Redflex arranged for him to be given a job at another firm to give Redflex cover for the bribe, the complaint states.

Redflex's own internal investigation concluded last year that Redflex bribed Bills and concealed those favors.

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