By Joe Boyle
Federal prosecutors on Monday charged a primary figure associated with a red-light camera company that has come under scrutiny with the investigation having links to the southwest suburbs.
Omar Maani, of Burr Ridge, has been charged with bribery conspiracy, according to court records. With the charges levied against Maani, federal investigators had previously mentioned Patrick Doherty, 64, who has worked as a paid consultant for SafeSpeed, the red-light camera company that is in question.
According to federal investigators, Doherty, a Palos Heights resident, and another unnamed individual conspired to bribe a relative of an Oak Lawn trustee in an effort to expand the amount of SafeSpeed cameras in the suburb. Federal authorities did not name the trustee. Doherty was indicted on three counts of bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery by the feds on Feb. 14.
The Oak Lawn Village Board voted to drop SafeSpeed during a village board meeting held last November. The cameras were originally installed in Oak Lawn back in 2014.
Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury said in February that she was unaware of the investigation of the trustee and the attempt to increase red-light cameras in the village.
“We are shocked and appalled by what’s being reported as the alleged actions strike at the very core of the public’s trust in government,” Bury said. “They cannot and will not be tolerated.”
Maani was a partner in the red-light camera company. According to published reports, he is cooperating with federal investigators.
According to the federal investigation, Doherty informed Maani on May 30, 2017 that he would pay the relative of the Oak Lawn trustee in an effort to solidify the votes from other members of the village board.
Also charged with corruption is former Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski, who also served as the mayor of McCook. Tobolski was also initially charged in February. He has since resigned as commissioner and mayor. Doherty had served as chief of staff to Tobolski.
According to the investigation, Doherty conspired with employees of SafeSpeed that he would make payments of up to $4,000 for the cameras in Oak Lawn.
"Just make sure we get the...make sure we get (expletive deleted) thing, the contract," Doherty reportedly told officials with SafeSpeed.
Payments, according to the investigators, was scheduled to go to the relative in $500 installments over an eight-week span. To keep the reason for the payments secret, the money would be distributed from a company in which Doherty worked for, according to investigators.
SafeSpeed officials have denied any involvement in the alleged briberies. The company released a statement Monday stating that they "had no knowledge of Omar Maani's criminal conduct, and SafeSpeed certainly did not authorize it, and does not condone it."
Officials from SafeSpeed added that Maani had been removed from the firm and has had no contact with the company for a long time.
Maani is just the latest political figure charged with crimes related to SafeSpeed. Former state Sen. Martin Sandoval admitted to authorities in January that he took thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from a SafeSpeed official. Sandoval resigned in January and pled guilty to bribery and tax charges. He also admitted to accepting $70,000 in cash from a SafeSpeed co-owner who was actually working with federal agents
Last month, Crestwood Mayor Lou Presta was charged and accused of bribery and lying about an envelope he took during a meeting in March 2018 with a SafeSpeed associate that contained $5,000 in cash, according to federal investigators.