12/11/2014Illinois: Guilty Plea In Redflex Bribery Trial
Redflex contractor pleads guilty in red light camera conspiracy trial in Chicago, Illinois.
Corruption in the Chicago, Illinois red light camera program is no longer "alleged," it is fact. On Wednesday, Martin O'Malley appeared before US District Judge Virginia M. Kendall to say that he was part of a conspiracy to bribe Chicago officials on behalf of Redflex Traffic Systems, the Australian company that provides automated ticketing services.
According to his plea agreement, O'Malley's co-conspirators were John Bills, Chicago's deputy transportation commissioner; Karen Finley, the head of US operations for Redflex after 2005; Aaron M. Rosenberg, Redflex executive vice president; and Bruce Higgins, the head of US operations for Redflex up until 2005. Between January 2003 and June 30, 2011, O'Malley says he distributed cash and benefits to Bills in return for securing the lucrative photo enforcement contract.
The plea deal says that Bills came up with the idea. Bills approached O'Malley in 2003, saying "I got something coming up" -- a part-time job with Redflex that would pay $30,000 a year. Bills told O'Malley to respond to a specific, but anonymous, job listing in the Chicago Tribune. O'Malley sent in an application. Higgins and Finley flew O'Malley to Phoenix, Arizona where he was interviewed for the "Chicago customer service representative" position. He asked for $60,000 a year.
The deal was that O'Malley would give his commission payments for landing the Chicago contract to Bills. O'Malley would have to pay taxes on all of those commissions, which added up to $2 million.
"O'Malley understood at the time of these conversations that giving a portion of the commission payments to Bills would be wrong and illegal but agreed to do so because O'Malley needed a job," the plea agreement states.
Bills drafted the invoices that O'Malley submitted to Redflex for those commission payments. When the payment check arrived, O'Malley would have lunch with Bills at a Chicago restaurant. Bills send a coded email to tell O'Malley how much cash to bring.
"How about lunch at Shaller's tomorrow?" Bills wrote in a June 6, 2011 email to O'Malley. "Eight page speed overview can be discussed at lunch if your schedule permits."
O'Malley saw the "eight" and brought $8000 in cash to Bills. At other times, O'Malley would write checks to pay debts accumulated by Bills. This included paying for meals, golf outings and other expenses. In 2008, O'Malley bought an Arizona condo for $76,000 that was set aside for the use of Bills.
"O'Malley did this because O'Malley understood, from Finley and Individuals A and B [Rosenberg and Higgins], that his job was to keep Bills and the city of Chicago happy so that Redflex could maintain and expand its business with the city of Chicago," the plea agreement explains.
Under the plea deal, O'Malley faces five years in prison, a $250,00 fine, three years probation and other restitution. O'Malley also agrees to continue providing evidence to prosecutors throughout the ongoing trial of Bills and Finley.