By Michael Tarm Associated Press
CHICAGO — A former executive of a Phoenix-based company was indicted on public corruption charges Wednesday in an ongoing federal investigation in Chicago of one of the nation’s largest red-light camera programs.
Karen Finley, 54, the CEO of Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. until 2013, is accused of funneling nearly $600,000 in cash and other benefits to a retired Chicago official for his help in landing the firm $124 million in city contracts.
Chicago awarded its first contract to Redflex in 2003 and the signed others later for the city’s first red-light enforcement program. It uses cameras to automatically record and ticket drivers who run red lights.
The ex-city official, 52 year-old John Bills, was charged in May with one count of bribery. In the new indictment, the longtime transportation department official faces additional charges, including extortion and filing false income tax returns.
Finley, of Cave Creek, Arizona, was charged with multiple counts of fraud and bribery, as well as one count of conspiracy to commit bribery. A conviction on just one count of fraud carries a maximum 20-year prison term.
Finley was not arrested and will be arraigned later. A message seeking comment left at a residential telephone number for Finley in Cave Creek was not returned.
After Bills was arrested and then released pending trial in May, his lawyer, Nishay Sanan, said his client never took bribes from anyone, and he described Bills as a “scapegoat.”
It’s just the latest in a long line of public corruption cases for Illinois, where the state’s previous two governors — one Democrat and one Republican — were convicted on corruption-related charges.
The U.S. attorney in Chicago said the red-light prosecutions illustrated his office’s commitment to rooting out corruption.
“We will attack alleged public corruption from every angle,” Zachary Fardon said Wednesday in a written statement.
Also named in Wednesday’s indictment is Martin O’Malley, 73, of Worth, a former Reflex company liaison. He faces one bribery count for allegedly passing much of his $2 million Redflex compensation to Bills. There was no public phone listing for O’Malley.
Court documents say that the money that went to Bills may have originated with Redflex, but federal authorities have not accused the company itself of wrongdoing.
In a statement emailed on Wednesday, Redflex said that it made “aggressive leadership changes” last year that have helped it draw a “distinction between our past and present.”
“Redflex has cooperated fully with the investigative authorities while maintaining the integrity of our customer programs,” the statement said.