Former Oakbrook Terrace mayor pleads guilty in red-light camera scheme

Tony Ragucci also agreed Monday to cooperate with federal investigators. A prosecutor told the judge he did not expect Ragucci’s cooperation to end “any time soon.”

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The Dirksen Federal Courthouse, where Mustafaa Saleh pleaded guilty to wire fraud in the scheme involving the Cook County Land Bank Authority, the county agency where he formerly worked.

Dirksen Federal Courthouse, 219 S. Dearborn St.

Sun-Times file

The former mayor of Oakbrook Terrace admitted Monday that he pocketed at least $88,500 as part of a criminal scheme involving red-light cameras in the western suburb, but he has now formally agreed to cooperate with federal investigators. 

Tony Ragucci, 66, pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud and filing a false tax return. He is just the latest politician to be swept up in the feds’ investigation of dealings involving the politically connected red-light camera company SafeSpeed LLC.

Ragucci’s scheme involved James and Joseph Colucci, who were charged earlier this month and pleaded not guilty Monday afternoon.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James Durkin told U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman he did not expect Ragucci’s cooperation to end “any time soon.” 

SafeSpeed has not been charged with wrongdoing and has sought to distance itself from Omar Maani, the former SafeSpeed partner who also played a role in Ragucci’s scheme. Maani was charged in 2020 with a bribery conspiracy but agreed to cooperate with the feds in what’s known as a deferred-prosecution agreement.

“SafeSpeed remains both shocked and saddened that one of its former colleagues was engaged in criminal conduct and recruited outside individuals to help further his self-serving activities,” the company said in a statement. “Their actions were clearly in their own self-interest and done without SafeSpeed’s knowledge and undercut the important work SafeSpeed does.”

Ragucci, as mayor of Oakbrook Terrace, signed a deal with SafeSpeed in 2012, records show. However, the company’s cameras did not become operational there until August 2017. 

In the meantime, an individual who is not named in Ragucci’s plea agreement offered in late 2016 to hire a relative of Ragucci’s and pay that person monthly in exchange for Ragucci’s continued support of SafeSpeed. The Sun-Times has identified that person, who died in January 2018, as Dennis Colucci.

Eventually, that person promised to instead pay Ragucci up to $3,500 every month, based on revenue generated by SafeSpeed cameras. James and Joseph Colucci then continued the payments after Dennis Colucci’s death, according to court records. In 2018, Ragucci signed a one-year renewal agreement with SafeSpeed. He signed another May 7, 2019.

By September 2019, the payments to Ragucci had totaled at least $76,000, according to his plea agreement. 

It also said that, starting in May 2018, Ragucci sought money from Maani. The two men met multiple times, including at an Oakbrook Terrace restaurant on July 19, 2018. During that meeting, Ragucci said, “I’m gonna sign the contract. Every year, I don’t have to go to the [Oakbrook Terrace] board with it or nothing. I do everything myself. If you could give me —.”

At the same time, Ragucci put five fingers on the table, according to his plea agreement. It meant he wanted $5,000, the document said. 

In all, the feds say Ragucci received at least $88,500.

Ragucci also filed false tax returns for 2018 and 2017, costing the IRS nearly $13,000.

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