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Feds: Red Light Camera Firm Paid For Chicago Official's Car, Condo 115

Posted by samzenpus
from the red-light-red-light dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The former CEO of Redflex, a major red light camera vendor, and John Bills, former Managing Deputy Commissioner at the Department of Transportation, have been indicted on federal corruption charges stemming from a contract with the City of Chicago. According to the indictment, a friend of Bills was hired as a contractor and paid $2 million. Much of that money was then kicked back to Bills, who also got a Mercedes and a condominium via Redflex employees. The defendants are facing 23 counts including: mail fraud, wire fraud, and bribery. Each fraud count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years."
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Feds: Red Light Camera Firm Paid For Chicago Official's Car, Condo

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  • by Captain_Chaos (103843) on Monday August 18, 2014 @08:14AM (#47693831)
    What an odd name for a car.
    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      It's not a car name.

      It's the brand. The car was a "Condominium GT 350 Pipistrello".

      • by TheCarp (96830)

        You know, if it were a house boat that might make more sense, a friend of mine bought one we liked to refer to as "A one bedroom apartment with a top speed of 20 MPH"

        Though, would need to be at least 2 apartments to condo it out.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Anything from Chicago. ......

    • by NotDrWho (3543773) on Monday August 18, 2014 @08:40AM (#47693995)

      You think corruption is bad in Chicago, come to Atlanta or New Orleans sometime. Local officials there all but solicit bribes with TV ads. Good luck finding a public official who ISN'T running at least two side hustles, sending city contracts to their brother-in-law, and fucking three mistresses.

      • by Lumpy (12016) on Monday August 18, 2014 @09:11AM (#47694203) Homepage

        This is the norm everywhere. If a person WANTS to be in public office, chances are good that they are a scumbag looking for bribes. It has always been this way that the scum of the earth always want to be in politics.

        • by NotDrWho (3543773)

          True, but some cities are definitely worse than others. In most decent cities, the public officials at least have the decency to try to temper their corruption to a certain limit and at least keep it quiet.

        • by TheCarp (96830)

          This. I live in MA, and its no different here. Hell, they caught one of our state reps on camera actually stuffing an envelope of cash in her bra. A business my wife used to work at owned the building they were in, right in south boston. They applied for a permit to get a roof deck; and were asked straight out for a bribe to make it happen, when they refused.... so was their permit. This shit goes on everywhere.

          • by tompaulco (629533)
            I think there is a line drawing game going on and at some point people step over the line. For instance, if you go in to city council with a rezoning request, they are not going to just say "Yes, that makes sense for it to be rezoned to X" and grant it. No, they are going to say at the very least "What improvements will you be making to this property to entice us to make this change?" and right on up to "Give me some money".
          • by Jawnn (445279)

            They applied for a permit to get a roof deck; and were asked straight out for a bribe to make it happen, when they refused.... so was their permit. This shit goes on everywhere.

            Because it goes on where you are? Provincialism fallacy much?

            • by TheCarp (96830)

              No the fallacy is yours in assume I made a claim I didn't. Yes it would be fallacy to claim that because it happens here it must happen everywhere but, there is ample evidence this sort of corruption has happened everywhere humans have had the chance to be corrupt. My own evidence of it going on is only one small confirmation in a several thousand year long history of people using whatever power they are given to their own advantage.

        • by LordLimecat (1103839) on Monday August 18, 2014 @10:00AM (#47694635)

          Cincinnatus [wikipedia.org] wants a word with you.

          I dont think its nearly as simple as you make it. If all you want is money (which is what bribes are), public office is probably the wrong place to look. I think many people entering public office geniunely want to change things for the better, and to do it their way. That doesnt mean their methods will be kosher, but I dont think you would deal with the hassles of public office just for some money gained far more easily in the private sector.

          • by Cabriel (803429)

            In non-altruistic practice, Public Office is a method for improving one's image and reputation while also making connections to important people in the business world so one can get a great position in an industry after their term is finished. If they're being bribed/illegally rewarded while in office and it amounts to more than they think they'd make for the same effort in an industry, then there's a strong reason to become a career politician--a very different kind from the presumably-good people who actu

          • by bondsbw (888959) on Monday August 18, 2014 @11:31AM (#47695513)

            It's also about fame and power. Being noticed, having people rely on you, and being able to directly affect the lives of so many... these are like a drug.

            And even if it starts out unselfishly, I've seen a few politicians get a taste of the drug and change ways. It sucks when I voted for them and feel the need to apologize for my support.

          • It all depends on how bad and how accepted corruption is in any given society. In many, a public office is basically accepted as a seat in which to take bribes - it's the major perk of the job.

        • by mrex (25183)

          If a person WANTS to be in public office, chances are good that they are a scumbag looking for bribes. It has always been this way that the scum of the earth always want to be in politics.

          90% of the time, that is true. The other 10% of the time is when you get your George Washingtons, your Theodore Roosevelts, and your Pope Francises. The trick is weeding out the 90% of chaff and promoting the 10% of wheat, while fighting off the attempts of the chaff that slipped through and got power to invert the system'

      • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Monday August 18, 2014 @09:19AM (#47694267)

        Trust me, Chicago is worse. The thing is, Chicago corruption is efficient. You pay this person X and you get Y. Very simple and strait forward. Things get done. It's an infection but it's not killing the host. What I've seen of New Orleans is corruption that doesn't work. Things don't get done.

      • by BringsApples (3418089) on Monday August 18, 2014 @09:56AM (#47694603)
        If it weren't for bribes, and all the other luxuries that come with being 'in office', I don't think anyone would apply (run for) for those positions. Anyone that works for the general public knows that it's not as nice as working for a private company. Working in the government is 'working for the general public' - on crack (no pun Canada).

        It's quite common for those that work in the government to see the public as a bunch of losers that aren't willing to do anything, but want you to give them stuff, mostly money. They see how broken the system is, and are satisfied with taking what they can and getting out as soon as they can. Also, it's not that this happens more or less in any part of the country, but that in the south, it appears that they're more divided and against each other, resulting in more tattling.

        Until lobbying is put to rest, how does anyone expect that this won't be a constant issue?
      • by k6mfw (1182893)

        You think corruption is bad in Chicago, come to Atlanta or New Orleans sometime.

        I wonder how such cities keep running i.e. water, power, sewage, traffic (though slow), electricity, food, etc. etc. and not collapse into some kind of Somalia environment with corruption gone rampant?

      • ...and fucking three mistresses.

        Erm... What exactly is wrong with that and how does it relate to corruption? Since when is a healthy libido a crime?

  • Pretty obvious (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mbone (558574) on Monday August 18, 2014 @08:24AM (#47693875)

    What, you think that these cameras were set up after a careful consideration of how to balance the needs and rights of the citizenry against the desire to improve traffic conditions? No, it's based on lobbying by the camera sales staff, promising easy money in return for a right to prey on the citizenry. This being Chicago, some of the easy money was kicked-back to the local politicians, but the process isn't really that much different in regions where there is enough moral fiber for the state to keep all of the proceeds.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      What, you think that these cameras were set up after a careful consideration of how to balance the needs and rights of the citizenry against the desire to improve traffic conditions? No, it's based on lobbying by the camera sales staff, promising easy money in return for a right to prey on the citizenry. This being Chicago, some of the easy money was kicked-back to the local politicians, but the process isn't really that much different in regions where there is enough moral fiber for the state to keep all of the proceeds.

      Oh Chicago never tried to hide that fact: right before they were installed the previous mayor flat out said that boosting revenue was the main motivation for it.

    • by FatdogHaiku (978357) on Monday August 18, 2014 @09:14AM (#47694233)
      Is it ironic that moral fiber has become irregular?
      • Since when did being a politician or running a corporation ever have a prerequisite of having a moral fiber? Political corruption goes as far back as the first governments. Same with corrupt corporations.

        Even the "classical" Western democracies and republics had rampant corruption. It's more "ironic" that you think having a moral fiber was ever regular.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          *whoosh*

      • Justice is constipated.
      • I learned an important lesson from Charles Winchester III on MASH. Hawkeye and BJ were feasting on some goods sent from home and keeping it from Charles. HE smiles and says ~ 'Not to worry, your middle class morals will force you to share it with me'. It seemed to me that a ton of 'moral fiber' idealism is handed down from the elites to keep the proles in line.
    • by FatAlb3rt (533682)
      I'm not surprised. A local municipality pushed these through (which I'm not staunchly for nor against the cameras), and there was a bit of public outcry. To be fair, intersections were not configured consistently, and stops often could have been handled as yields, but anyway.

      The council proposed putting the item up for vote, Redflex thought it would appropriate to sue the city [yourhoustonnews.com].
    • the process isn't really that much different in regions where there is enough moral fiber for the state to keep all of the proceeds.

      The state never gets "all of the proceeds"--the entire thing is a graft to slurp money out of taxpayers pockets (while causing more accidents at the same time) and into the pockets of private industry. The money paid to the government is considered a "cost of doing business" for the people operating the graft. It's one of the most corrupt things in our modern society--automated law enforcement.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Nexus7 (2919)

      Thing is, red light cameras catch people who are entering an intersection on red, which is illegal, dangerous, and inconsiderate (me-first-fuck-you'ers). You can argue about whether the amber/yellow should be 3 seconds or 4, and whether it was reduced in order to increase the revenue; but the minimum (federally mandated, I believe) is 3 s, and 3 s is plenty of time to stop or to go through based on conditions. RLC tickets in Chicago have a human review them, so they're not sent if conditions make it impossi

      • by dbitter1 (411864)

        LOL. You must not live here, or be really obtuse.

        First... the three seconds thing... nope, they aren't actually 3s. "somehow" they are slightly shorter:

        http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago... [dnainfo.com]

        Next... the "majority" of situations are, technically, illegal... but I'd take a lot more reservation than you do about "dangerous and inconsiderate". Nearly all the violations are right-hand-turn-on-red. It is .... uh... coincidental how many of the RLC-protected intersections have NTOR signs... and very seldom ever do they

        • by Nexus7 (2919)

          You talking 2.9-3 s, most probably just a calibration error. And it's no coincidence that RLC intersections have NTOR signs, if they were the most dangerous ones to begin with.

      • by Uberbah (647458)

        Thing is, red light cameras catch people who are entering an intersection on red, which is illegal, dangerous, and inconsiderate

        Unless the yellow light times were deliberately shorted in order to write more tickets while making the roads LESS safe by increasing rear-end collisions. This is not news.

        There is no question of balancing rights and improvement in traffic conditions.

        But of course there is, and that's even allowing the conflation of going through an intersection that's just turned red with going

  • by Nyder (754090) on Monday August 18, 2014 @08:32AM (#47693931) Journal

    When you do this for a member of congress, it's called Lobbying, when it do it for lesser politicians, they call it a bribe. Guess these peeps are finding out the hard way.

    • What usually happens there is that you get a job with a lobbying firm or their clients when you leave. There is no direct tit for tat, it is just a generally understood thing. They lobby you, you do what they want. When you leave, they'll pay you very well to then go and continue lobbying the next guy. Extremely shady, but not outright illegal.

      This sounds like a straight up bribe, which is illegal, money in exchange for a contract.

  • by PPalmgren (1009823) on Monday August 18, 2014 @08:32AM (#47693935)

    The city has an endemic culture of corruption, officials should be treated with skepticism in all affairs.

  • Well duh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ol Olsoc (1175323) on Monday August 18, 2014 @08:41AM (#47693999)
    Red light cameras have been known to be a cash cow for cities, a way to generate revenue.

    And just like for for profit prisons, they have to generate more money each quarter. It's the way of business. Which is why neither should be done on a for profit mode

    We've already had examples of shortening yellow light duration to make certain that more people are fined, more profits. This has already caused rear ending crashes to increase as people bitten once jam on the sprags once they see the yellow light. (not to excuse tailgating - it shouldn't be done.

    And the amount of revenue generated has to be significant if they consider expensive cars and condos as a cost of doing business.

    But after doing things like shortening yellow lights to increase profit, what's next? Hey who knows? Maybe hire a few graphic artists and do matching of redlight cam photos and photoshop license plates on 'em of owners of similar cars.

    Technology is awesome! But the shareholders must be served.

    • Re:Well duh (Score:4, Informative)

      by Amtrak (2430376) on Monday August 18, 2014 @09:01AM (#47694115)
      Oh it's worse than you think. The Chicago Tribune has already caught the city randomly changing the rules of the cameras so that there are occasonal large spikes of tickets generated. The rule changes are things like removing turn on red or changing the speed approached to the light for ticket triggering. The Chicago Tribune's website has a whole section on the ongoing red light issues. [chicagotribune.com] Sorry some of it is pay walled but not all of it.
    • If they really wanted to help traffic, they would install green light cameras that took pictures of people who sit still well after the light turns green, then post them to a public shame wall.
  • They settle out of court for 1M, he'll get to keep the car named condo and nothing will come of it. The city needs the revenue too badly to take the cameras down. Remember kids, white collar crime *does* pay!

    • This is a federal indictment of criminal charges, not a civil case that can be settled out of court for a cash payment. Everyone involved could get up to 20 years in a federal prison, if convicted.
  • What's really news is that corruption in Chicago makes the news.

  • Sigh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by maliqua (1316471) on Monday August 18, 2014 @10:46AM (#47695081)

    Each fraud count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years."

    I wish that you saw more minimum sentences, the maximum sentence seems like something created for sensationalism media because saying "roughly 3 months of actual jail, 9 of house arrest and 2 years of probation" sounds too soft for most crimes, but more accurate than what is implied by the "20 year MAXIMUM!" which sounds appropriately punitive

    • by mythosaz (572040)

      Presumptive sentencing.

      Here's Arizona's example chart - other states are similar.

      http://www.azleg.state.az.us/a... [state.az.us]

      A class 2 felony (rape, arson, and other terrible non-murder activities) has a scary "Maximum Sentence" of 10 years, and an aggravated sentence of 12.5 years. The presumptive sentence is half that. Fraud here is a Class-3 felony, so it has a presumptive sentence of 3.5 years.

      I believe the argument that says being a public official (legislature, law enforcement, etc.) should count as an aggrav

  • Well duh, this is Chicago. Did you expect different?

    The only honest politicians we have here are the ones who at least have the decency to stay bought.

    • The only honest politicians we have here are the ones who at least have the decency to stay bought.

      Yes, and as long as that's your attitude, nothing is ever going to change. Start enforcing the laws that are supposed to prevent this type of thing and stop voting for corrupt, machine politicians because right now, you're getting exactly the kind of government you're voting for.

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