9/13/2016Redflex Bagman Sentenced, Bribe Recipient Appeals
Man who took red light camera bribes appeals his sentence. Man who distributed the cash gets six months in prison.
The red light camera bribery scandal will not be going away any time soon. John Bills, the former Chicago, Illinois transportation official convicted of taking $2,032,959 in bribes from Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia appealed his ten-year prison sentence to the Seventh Circuit US Court of Appeals on Saturday.
In 2003, Bills asked Redflex to hire an unemployed friend, Martin O'Malley, to deliver cash in return for his help in securing the nation's most lucrative red light camera contract. On Monday, US District Judge Virginia M. Kendall imposed a six-month prison sentence on O'Malley.
Bills thought he had come up with a kickback scheme that would be impossible to trace. O'Malley earned a $60,000 salary from Redflex, but he received regular "bonus" checks that were meant for Bills. When Bills wanted his money, he would email O'Malley, asking him to meet for lunch at Schaller's Pump, a local restaurant, or Manny's Deli. If he said that he wanted to discuss a "five page" memo. That was code for O'Malley to bring $5000 in $100 bills to pay the Chicago official. A six-page memo meant $6000. In all cases, the amounts were kept under $10,000 to avoid raising scrutiny. In each transaction, O'Malley skimmed some of the Redflex cash for himself.
O'Malley's family and friends sent letters to Judge Kendall urging her to go easy on the 75-year-old, who was an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous. At the time he took the job with Redflex, his wife Marilyn was undergoing treatment for terminal cancer, creating a severe financial strain.
"Marty has accepted his responsibility and his guilt in the matter of the traffic cameras," long-time friend Anthony M. Barrett wrote. "Marty was wrong in his misdeeds... but I implore you to consider the good side of this man when you impose sentencing on him."
Even prosecutors wanted to go easy on O'Malley, given his willingness to rat out his co-conspirators the first time someone with a badge arrived at his doorstep.
"Defendant Martin O'Malley served a narrow yet vital role in the charged conspiracy: the bagman who shuffled cash kickbacks from Redflex Traffic Systems to co-defendant John Bills," US Attorney Zachary T. Fardon explained. "O'Malley's cooperation has been extraordinary and the government asks the Court to consider that cooperation in settling on a reasonable sentence."
Fardon was not impressed, however, that O'Malley was sure to pay taxes on the bribe payments to evade detection. O'Malley also went to great lengths to disguise the ownership of the Arizona condo that Redflex bought as a vacation residence for Bills.
"The government recognizes the damage done by O'Malley and his co-conspirators," Fardon wrote. "Their egregious conduct cast a pall over Chicago government, and will continue to do so for some time. While Chicago is no stranger to corruption, the brazen nature of this conspiracy, the length of this conspiracy covering nearly 10 years, and the scope of the kickbacks paid to Bills ranging from cash to condos to campaign contributions all sets this case apart."
Ultimately, Judge Kendall rejected the prosecution's suggestion that home confinement might be a sufficient punishment.