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Key figure in red-light camera company corruption probe strikes deal with prosecutors

Businessman Omar Maani, who is cooperating with investigators, has reached a deferred prosecution agreement.

Businessman Omar Maani has reached a deferred prosecution deal as investigators continue to look into a red-light camera company’s dealings with suburban politicians.
Businessman Omar Maani has reached a deferred prosecution deal as investigators continue to look into a red-light camera company’s dealings with suburban politicians.
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Looking to expand a politically-connected red-light camera company’s footprint in southwest suburban Oak Lawn back in May 2017, a sales consultant spoke by phone to a partner in the firm and told him to “put this thought in the back of your head.”

An Oak Lawn trustee was “out of a job” and was “looking for a job for his kid.” Or so SafeSpeed sales agent Patrick Doherty told one of the firm’s partners, Omar Maani.

“I think he’s looking to make as much money as he can because he’s going to college, and his dad’s gonna have no money to give him because he’s outta work,” Doherty allegedly told Maani, suggesting that a short-term job worth $800 a week for the son might buy the trustee.

Three years later, that’s the latest episode to spill into public view as federal authorities continue their probe into a series of suburban public corruption schemes involving SafeSpeed. Maani’s attorney confirmed Friday that he will cooperate with the feds after Maani struck what’s known as a deferred-prosecution agreement to resolve a bribery conspiracy charge filed recently.

In doing so, Maani admitted to a set of allegations that specifically mention Doherty, the indicted former chief of staff to ex-Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski. Others caught up in SafeSpeed scandals include ex-state Sen. Martin Sandoval and Crestwood Mayor Louis Presta. Tobolski also pleaded guilty to corruption charges in a separate case earlier this week.

Doherty’s lawyer did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment. SafeSpeed has portrayed Maani as a rogue actor who long ago left the firm, insisting in a statement this week that “SafeSpeed is as offended as anyone by what Omar Maani did. His alleged conduct has and will continue to set SafeSpeed back.”

Maani’s deal says he also “provided other benefits, including campaign contributions, meals, money, and sporting-event tickets, to other public officials, with the intention of obtaining “those officials’ official action in favor of” SafeSpeed. It said Maani additionally paid for a ticket so the Oak Lawn trustee could attend an event at a cigar lounge the Chicago Sun-Times has previously identified as part of the feds’ investigation.

“Omar accepts responsibility for his role in the charged conspiracy,” Megan Cunniff Church, Maani’s defense attorney, said in a statement. “He has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the government and will continue to cooperate as requested.”

That adds Maani to an ever-growing list of government cooperators who have gone public amid a series of public corruption investigations. They include Tobolski, Sandoval and former Chicago Ald. Danny Solis. A source has identified state Sen. Terry Link as another government cooperator. Link has denied it but has since been criminally charged.

Only a select few have landed a so-called deferred-prosecution agreement, though. The feds struck a similar deal in a bribery case involving the utility company ComEd in July. And lawyers for indicted Ald. Ed Burke say Solis did the same.

Maani’s agreement calls for him to show “good conduct” for two years.

It also says he schemed in May 2017 with Doherty and another unnamed SafeSpeed sales agent to influence the unidentified Oak Lawn trustee as they sought to put additional SafeSpeed cameras in the suburb. It said Doherty broached the idea in the phone call with Maani on May 23, 2017.

In another call two days later, Doherty allegedly said, “Look, I’ll put in a couple grand if I have to … If it guarantees us getting the other locations (to install red-light cameras) in Oak Lawn, and the new police chief, I’m sure I’ll get my money back.”

Contributing: Mark Brown