Former CEO of red-light camera firm expected to plead guilty in bribery case

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A key player in the redlight camera bribery case has asked to change her plea. Karen Finley is scheduled to return to court in August. | Associated Press

The former boss of the company at the heart of Chicago’s red-light camera bribery scandal could plead guilty in August.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall scheduled an Aug. 11 hearing for Karen Finley, the former CEO of Redflex Traffic Systems, to change her plea to the fraud and bribery charges leveled against her last year. The judge did so Monday at the request of Finley’s attorney, Michael Monico.

Kendall also shot down a request from retired city worker John Bills to move his trial, set for October, away from Chicago. Bills is accused of helping rig the contract for Redflex in return for kickbacks.

“John Bills cannot receive a fair trial in this town,” Bills’ lawyers wrote in a motion filed in January. “He is accused of being a central player in a transaction that helped bring about one of the most unpopular regulatory programs in the City of Chicago’s history — the red-light cameras.”

The indictment against Finley, Bills and Bills’ pal, Martin O’Malley, alleges that Redflex officials, including Finley, paid Bills $570,000 cash and gave him perks, including an Arizona condo and a Mercedes in exchange for Bills’ steering contracts that grew to $124 million to Redflex, helping make Chicago the nation’s red-light camera capital.

Finley, of Arizona, was Redflex’s chief executive from 2005 through February 2013, and its vice president of operations from 2001. She faces 12 fraud counts and four bribery counts. Monico would not comment after court Monday on a potential plea agreement.

O’Malley pleaded guilty in December to conspiracy to commit bribery. Sources said last fall that O’Malley had been cooperating with federal prosecutors for some time.

The firm’s contract was canceled by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2013, after allegations about the bribery scheme were first published by the Chicago Tribune.

O’Malley allegedly funneled much of the $2 million he was paid by Redflex to Bills, who got a $177,000 condo, Super Bowl tickets, golf outings, a boat, his children’s school fees and even his girlfriend’s mortgage and his divorce attorney’s bill paid by Redflex, the feds say.

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