Enlarge / A Redflex red light camera at the intersection of Sylvan and Coffee in Modesto, California as seen in 2013.Cyrus Farivar
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A former Chicago transportation official has been sentenced to a decade in prison. He was found guilty in January on 20 counts of mail and wire fraud, bribery, extortion, and many other charges stemming from a corrupt contract involving Redflex, a major red light camera company.
During the Monday hearing, US District Judge Virginia M. Kendall also ordered John Bills to pay over $2 million in restitution.
According to the Chicago Tribune, “Bills’ voice broke with emotion as he acknowledged ‘ethical and moral’ mistakes, but he denied masterminding the massive bribery scheme in exchange for growing the city’s controversial network of red light cameras into the largest in the nation.”
As Ars has reported previously, Bills, who was the managing deputy commissioner at the Department of Transportation, helped steer a lucrative city contract to Redflex.
After Bills urged his colleagues to approve the deal, the city hired the embattled Australian firm to provide automated enforcement cameras, known formally as its Digital Automated Red Light Enforcement Program (DARLEP), from October 2003 until February 2013.
That contract abruptly ended after Bills was shown to have accepted a hotel room that Redflex paid for—but city officials believe that the corruption ran far deeper.
In October 2013, Chicago selected Xerox ACS to replace Redflex as its new red light camera operator.
Since then, Redflex has suffered financially, dubbing North America a “low/no-growth market.”
The May 2014 criminal indictment explained that Redflex hired Bills’ friend Martin O’Malley, who was paid $2 million for his services as a contractor, effectively making him one of the company’s highest paid workers. Much of that money was then funneled to Bills, who used it for personal gain.
Via Redflex employees, Bills also acquired a Mercedes and a condominium in Arizona. O’Malley and then-CEO Karen Finley, who have pleaded guilty in their own respective criminal cases, both testified against Bills at trial.
O’Malley is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Kendall on September 12, and Finley is scheduled to be sentenced, also by Judge Kendall, on November 10.
In December 2013, Ars reported on red light cameras nationwide, with a particular focus on Redflex’s four cameras in the central California town of Modesto.