Legal fallout continues after guilty plea in bribery scheme involving red-light camera company

A racketeering lawsuit has been filed against the company, SafeSpeed, which has cut ties with a key player in the firm.

SHARE Legal fallout continues after guilty plea in bribery scheme involving red-light camera company
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FILE - In this June 2, 2019 file photo Illinois State Sen. Martin Sandoval, D-Chicago, at the Illinois State Capitol, in Springfield, Ill. Sandoval was charged in federal court Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, with bribery and filing a false tax return stemming from his support of the red-light camera industry when he was head of the state’s powerful Transportation Committee. (Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP, File) ORG XMIT: ILSPR501

AP Photos

The red-light camera company at the center of former state Sen. Martin Sandoval’s brazen bribery scheme said Monday it has cut ties with a key player, but a federal racketeering lawsuit also surfaced targeting all three — along with several other suburban officials.

SafeSpeed LLC said in a news release it had terminated Omar Maani’s ownership interest Sunday, identifying him as the person who paid bribes to Sandoval and insisting, “the company does not believe Omar Maani should profit in any way from his alleged criminal behavior.”

The company said it learned of the payments last week and added, “that conduct did not benefit SafeSpeed; in fact, the alleged criminality of Mr. Maani and Senator Sandoval has caused significant harm to SafeSpeed’s business and its reputation.”

Maani “did not and will not receive any money from the company as part of this process,” the company said. Maani did not respond to a message left seeking comment Monday.

The news followed the filing of a 47-page lawsuit revolving around Sandoval’s bribery scheme — the predictable result of the disgraced politician’s admission last week that he took $70,000 in “protection money” from someone tied to SafeSpeed in order to protect its interests in the legislature.

The lawsuit also identities that person as Maani and names him as a defendant.

Though the complaint relies heavily on details revealed when Sandoval appeared in court last week —as well as media reports —it includes allegations not yet made by federal prosecutors: Among them, that Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski and former Oakbrook Terrace Mayor Tony Ragucci also took bribes.

“If you go around bribing public officials to get money in your pocket corruptly, you shouldn’t be able to keep those funds that you collect,” said Kent Maynard Jr., the lawyer who filed the lawsuit.

An attorney representing Tobolski declined to comment, and Ragucci could not be reached.Ragucci has previously denied wrongdoing.

Ex-Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski

Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski, who is under federal investigation, is named in a federal lawsuit targeting the red-light camera company, SafeSpeed.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file photo

Maynard represents Lawrence H. Gress, who was ticketed after going through an intersection in Oakbrook Terrace in 2018 that was monitored by SafeSpeed cameras which the lawsuit claims were “corruptly installed.” His lawsuit seeks class-action status.

Maynard previously filed a lawsuit on Gress’ behalf alleging Sandoval and others rigged a job search at the Pace suburban bus service in favor of Sandoval’s son.

The new lawsuit, filed Sunday, also targets SafeSpeed co-founders Nikki Zollar and Chris Lai, as well as additional SafeSpeed stakeholder Khalid Maani. Also named are Sandoval, Tobolski and Ragucci, as well as Alsip Mayor John Ryan and Summit Mayor Sergio Rodriguez.

Additional defendants are Oakbrook Terrace, Tobolski’s chief of staff, Patrick Doherty, former Chicago Deputy Aviation Commissioner Bill Helm, ex-Justice police chief Robert Gedville, Worth Township Supervisor John O’Sullivan, former state Rep. Michael Carberry, Summit police chief John Kosmowski and Bill Mundy, head of public works in Summit.

Aside from SafeSpeed, which released its announcement Monday through a company spokesman, the named defendants or their attorneys either declined to comment or couldn’t be reached.

The lawsuit alleges that SafeSpeed sought to gain a competitive edge in the suburbs by hiring public officials to moonlight as “commissioned, undisclosed sales agents” for SafeSpeed, promising them a percentage of the fines generated by the cameras.

Among those “corruptly recruited and incentivized by SafeSpeed” were Sandoval and Ragucci, it alleges. It says Ragucci began to seek SafeSpeed cameras for the intersection of Route 83 and 22nd Street in Oakbrook Terrace “after SafeSpeed became one of Ragucci’s most generous campaign contributors.”

It also says Sandoval intervened in the process to put cameras in that intersection “by bullying, threatening, and berating” the head of the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Ragucci resigned as mayor of Oakbrook Terrace last month after the Chicago Sun-Times revealed that federal agents had seized $60,000 in cash from his west suburban home late last year.

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Sun-Times Media

Then, last week, Sandoval pleaded guilty to bribery and filing a false tax return. In addition to the SafeSpeed scam, he admitted he’d accepted more than $250,000 in bribes “as part of criminal activity that involved more than five participants.”

Sandoval also agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors.

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