Red-light camera corruption probe: Key figure Omar Maani strikes deal with prosecutors

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. Provided photo

A key cooperating witness in the ongoing corruption probe of a red-light camera company and suburban politicians has struck a deferred prosecution agreement with prosecutors, a federal judge said Friday.

Federal prosecutors charged businessman Omar Maani, who lives in Burr Ridge, with bribery conspiracy earlier this week. He was a partner in the red-light camera firm SafeSpeed, and has long been believed to be cooperating with federal authorities.

In charging Maani, the feds also mentioned Patrick Doherty, who worked as a paid consultant for SafeSpeed — as well as the chief of staff for former Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski. Tobolski pleaded guilty to corruption charges earlier this week.

The feds alleged that Maani, Doherty and another unnamed individual conspired to pay off the relative of an Oak Lawn trustee to expand the number of SafeSpeed cameras there.

The feds did not name the trustee. They said Doherty told Maani on May 30, 2017, that he would pay the relative “just on the chance of, uh, that we can get the other ones in Oak Lawn and get (the trustee) on our side.”

That exchange also appeared in a three-count indictment filed against Doherty in February.

In January, former state Sen. Martin Sandoval admitted he pocketed thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from a SafeSpeed associate while blocking legislation that would have been bad for its business.

And in early August, Crestwood Mayor Louis Presta was also charged, accused of bribery and lying about whether an envelope he took during a March 2018 meeting with a SafeSpeed representative had been stuffed with $5,000 cash.

SafeSpeed officials have denied wrongdoing and portrayed the scandals involving Maani as the work of a rogue actor. CEO Nikki Zollar told the Chicago Sun-Times last fall that “our partner has run amok in some way” and that the company was “trying to find out what we need to do to distance ourselves from him.”

In a statement Monday, the company said it “had no knowledge of Omar Maani’s criminal conduct, and SafeSpeed certainly did not authorize it, and does not condone it.” It said Maani had been removed from the firm and “has not been active in the business for a substantial period of time.”

“What Omar Maani did should not reflect on the values and integrity of SafeSpeed and its employees — the people who work hard at the company every day and are invested in its success and integrity,” the company said. “SafeSpeed is as offended as anyone by what Omar Maani did. His alleged conduct has and will continue to set SafeSpeed back. Far from benefiting SafeSpeed, what Omar Maani has done undercuts the important work we do to serve local municipalities and help them save lives. We will continue to serve municipalities consistent with the values of honesty, integrity and a belief in enforcing the law.”

Originally published: 2020-09-04 14:10:21

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