Red-light camera operator reaches deal in bribery scandal

WASHINGTON — A company that owns and operates red-light cameras worldwide has reached a deal with federal prosecutors after being involved in a bribery scandal in Illinois and Ohio.

Under the agreement, the Department of Justice will not seek criminal charges against the Phoenix-based Redflex Traffic Systems Inc.

The agreement was announced Tuesday by the U.S. Attorney’s offices for the Northern District of Illinois and the Southern District of Ohio.

Redflex was tied to a scandal that involved bribing elected officials for red-light camera contracts in the cities of Chicago and Columbus. The scandal prompted a 2015 review by D.C. officials of a red-light camera contract that the District had with the company. Redflex also administered red-light camera systems in Virginia’s Alexandria and City of Fairfax. There have been no known investigations of Redflex in the area.

The Chicago-Columbus investigation produced several convictions: Former Redflex CEO Karen Finley, who pleaded guilty in 2015 to federal bribery charges, was sentenced in October to 14 months in prison. Chicago official John Bills was convicted of accepting cash from Redflex in exchange for expanding the company’s business with Chicago and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Columbus lobbyist John Raphael pleaded guilty to extorting cash from Redflex to pass on to elected officials in Ohio in an effort to obtain red-light camera contracts and was sentenced to 15 months.

“The agreement was reached in part due to Redflex’s extensive and thorough cooperation over recent years,” the DOJ said in a statement.  “Redflex accepted responsibility for its conduct related to the illegal activities of its employees in recent U.S. investigations.”

The Justice Department added, “Redflex will pay restitution and compensatory damages to the City of Chicago, the amount of which will be determined either by a final judgment or a settlement agreement in Chicago’s pending civil lawsuit against Redflex,” said the DOJ. “Redflex will also pay restitution of $100,000 to the City of Columbus, Ohio.”

The company has agreed to adopt new policies and procedures to “detect and deter violations” of bribery and corruption laws, the Justice Department said.

Redflex could still face prosecution in the future if the Justice Department determines that the company has violated any provision of its agreement.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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