9/23/2020Safespeed Denies Red Light Camera Racketeering Conspiracy
Action postponed in red light camera RICO lawsuit against Safespeed.
Embattled red light camera operator Safespeed took comfort in a federal judge's decision to put off further proceedings out of virus fears. US District Judge Robert M. Dow Jr had scheduled a hearing for Friday but decided instead to postpone further consideration of a racketeering lawsuit against Safespeed. He will accept final briefings in November on whether to allow the suit to proceed and issue a ruling by mail. The suit is asking for $70 million in refunds to the motorists ticketed through the scheme.
Action by the US Department of Justice has already caught Safespeed co-founder Omar Maani involved in the plot to bribe suburban Illinois politicians into signing up for the highly lucrative automated ticketing service. Maani earlier this month admitted his guilt and entered a deferred prosecution agreement that allows him to avoid serving time in prison in return for his turning evidence against those with whom he did business. Maani's father, Khaled 'Cliff' Maani, insists he is not part of the scheme and urged the judge to toss the lawsuit.
"Nowhere in the complaint does plaintiff provide any specifics about Khalid Maani's alleged funding of bribes," Maani's lawyer, Andrew C. Porter, wrote. "Indeed, the only bribes plaintiff specifically discusses in his complaint are bribes funded by the United States government -- not Khalid Maani."
Maani joined Safespeed's counsel in pointing out that the anti-racketeering statute known as RICO requires that the suit identify at least two specific, illegal acts committed by each participant to qualify.
"Instead, plaintiff seems to have named Khalid Maani as a defendant simply because of his status as a 'founding member, investor, and stakeholder in Safespeed,'" Porter wrote. "But that is not sufficient to constitute a predicate act of racketeering."
Safespeed insisted that no evidence has been produced establishing that its executives bribed local officials.
"Plaintiff's entire case against Safespeed boils down to an attempt to hold Safespeed vicariously liable for the bad acts of Omar Maani," Safespeed lawyer Zachary T. Fardon wrote. "It is well settled in the Seventh Circuit that a corporate entity like SafeSpeed is not vicariously liable for the acts of others where, as here, the company had no knowledge and was used as an unwitting vehicle."
The suit pointed out that Safespeed secretly hired public officials as "sales agents" or consultants who were paid a cut of the red light camera profit generated. This was too vague an allegation, according to Safespeed.
"Nowhere does the complaint allege who allegedly fraudulently concealed this information (let alone the legal duty violated in so concealing the information), when the allegedly fraudulent concealment occurred, from whom the information was withheld, or how allegedly fraudulent concealment occurred," Fardon wrote.