by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producer

CHICAGO (CBS) — Crestwood Mayor Louis Presta is expected to plead guilty next month to charges accusing him of taking bribes from a red light camera company, his attorneys told a federal judge on Thursday.

Presta, 70, was indicted last year on bribery, misconduct, and fraud charges, accusing him of accepting a $5,000 cash bribe from a red light camera company operating cameras in the village.

The indictment does not identify the red light camera company involved in the case, but published reports state the company is SafeSpeed, which is at the center of a sweeping federal investigation.

During a telephone conference on Thursday, Presta’s attorneys told U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin he is willing to plead guilty in the case, and asked that his scheduled December trial date be canceled, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office confirmed.

Durkin scheduled a change of plea hearing for Oct. 29.

According to the indictment, Presta — who has been mayor of Crestwood since 2013 — was caught on a recording accepting an envelope containing $5,000 in cash from a representative of the company on March 7, 2018, and then lied about it when questioned by the FBI and IRS, falsely claiming the envelope was empty. The feds say Presta also lied about accepting gifts and campaign contributions from the company.

Presta also faces charges accusing him of filing false income tax returns in 2015 and 2018, and failing to file an income tax return in 2014.

If Presta goes through with guilty plea, he would be just the latest local elected official to be taken down by the federal investigation of SafeSpeed, which first came to light when the feds raided the Springfield office of former State Sen. Martin Sandoval.

Sandoval pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges in January 2020, and agreed to cooperate with federal investigators. He admitted to taking $250,000 in bribes in exchange for acting as a “protector” for SafeSpeed in the state legislature. He died in December 2020.

Former McCook Mayor and former Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski, whose offices were raided days after Sandoval’s, pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges in September 2020. Tobolski, who also is cooperating with federal investigators, admitted to accepting multiple bribes totaling more than $250,000 in various schemes.

Tobolski’s former chief of staff, Patrick Doherty, is awaiting trial on charges accusing him of conspiring with a fellow SafeSpeed sales agent to bribe an Oak Lawn village trustee for their support for additional cameras, as well as funneling payments from a SafeSpeed agent to Sandoval in exchange for the former senator’s help in Springfield.

Read More

Leave a Reply