CEO in Red Light Camera Scandal Pleads Guilty to Bribery Scheme

CHICAGO (Chicago Tribune/TNS) -

The former CEO of Chicago’s fired red light camera vendor pleaded guilty Thursday to helping orchestrate a decade-long $2 million bribery scheme to win and grow the largest automated traffic enforcement program in the nation.

“Guilty, your honor,” Karen Finley, 55, answered in a firm voice when she was asked how she pleaded to one count of bribery conspiracy.

The charge carries a maximum of five years in prison, but Finley also faces sentencing in a separate bribery scheme in Ohio in which her former company, Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., made campaign contributions to elected public officials in Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio, in return for keeping red light camera contracts, court records show.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall said that whatever sentence she imposes would run concurrent to the term handed down in the Ohio case.

Finley’s sentencing was postponed until after the January trial of co-defendant John Bills, a former city transportation manager.

Finley, of Cave Creek, Ariz., was charged in a sweeping indictment last year with conspiring to funnel cash, lavish vacation trips and an Arizona condominium to Bills. The charges accused Finley of hiring Bills’s longtime friend, Martin O’Malley, as a consultant in Chicago to act as a conduit for the bribes.

The Chicago Tribune first disclosed the questionable relationship between Bills and Redflex in fall 2012 after obtaining a two-year-old internal whistleblower memo written by an ousted Redflex vice president. The scandal prompted Mayor Rahm Emanuel to fire the company and overhaul the city’s red light camera program, which has raked in more than $500 million in traffic fines and remains the largest in the nation.

Finley, who has been free on bond since the indictment was handed down in August 2014, left the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse without comment. Her attorney, Michael Monico, also declined to comment.

Her guilty plea marked the second conviction in a scandal that by size alone ranks among the largest in Chicago’s notorious history of corruption. O’Malley, 73, of suburban Chicago, pleaded guilty in December to a single count of conspiracy to bribe a public official and is cooperating with the ongoing federal investigation.