Former Chicago official gets 10 years in red light camera bribe case
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(Reuters) - A former Chicago transportation official was sentenced on Monday to 10 years in prison for using his influence to expand contracts for the city's red light traffic camera program in a $2 million bribery scheme.
John Bills, 55, was convicted in January on every charge he faced connected to the scheme, including mail fraud, wire fraud, filing false tax returns and bribery.
In addition to the 10-year sentence, U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall ordered Bills to make more than $2 million in restitution payments, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois.
According to the Chicago Tribune newspaper, Bills told the judge before sentencing that he committed "immoral" acts and had a "broken moral compass," but denied being a power broker.
"I was a mid-level manager who was directed by my superiors and given a responsibility that I obviously wasn't prepared for," Bills told the court, according to the Tribune.
Bills, a former assistant transportation commissioner, helped obtain millions of dollars in contracts for Phoenix-based Redflex Traffic Systems, part of Redflex Holdings Ltd.
In exchange for his efforts that resulted in the installation of hundreds of red-light cameras at intersections, Bills received cash, golf outings, hotel rooms and airline tickets, the jury found.
The unpopular $100 tickets for red light camera violations became a hot issue in the 2015 mayoral election, which was won by incumbent Rahm Emanuel.
Some of the benefits were given directly to Bills, while some came through a friend, Martin O'Malley, a former Redflex contractor who testified against Bills at the two-week trial and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery.
O'Malley testified at trial that he often stuffed lavish bonuses into envelopes and gave them to Bills in Chicago restaurants.
A unit of Xerox Corp now runs the city's traffic camera system. Bills retired from his city job in 2011.
(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Matthew Lewis)
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