A far-reaching federal investigation into local politicians’ and others’ ties to a Chicago red-light camera company has netted a second indictment, with Palos Heights resident Patrick Doherty, 64, being hit with bribery charges related to his role as a sales agent for SafeSpeed LLC.
Federal prosecutors announced the three-count indictment on Feb. 14, alleging that Doherty conspired with a SafeSpeed official and another of the company’s sales agents to pay the relative of an Oak Lawn trustee $4,000 to influence the trustee to vote to approve red-light cameras at more locations in that village.
Doherty attempted to conceal the payments by making them through a separate company, prosecutors alleged. Each count is punishable by up to five years in prison.
The red-light camera company is referred to as “Company A” in the indictment, but Doherty has stated for the record in previous news reports that he was a paid sales agent for SafeSpeed LLC. The indictment states Doherty had worked for the red-light camera company since 2014.
The SafeSpeed official is also not named in the indictment, but he has been identified as Omar Maani, one of the company’s founding members. Earlier this month, SafeSpeed announced it had severed its ties with Maani after former state Sen. Martin Sandoval, who was the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, pleaded guilty to taking $70,000 in bribes from Maani to serve as the red-light camera industry’s “protector” in the Senate.
“Mr. Maani’s alleged criminal activity was done without the company’s authority; his alleged criminal actions violate every trust the company placed in him, and contradict and undercut the important work the company does with local municipalities to save lives,” the company announced on its website on Feb. 3.
The Sandoval indictment also revealed that Maani had been wearing a wire for federal investigators as early as 2017 as part of their corruption investigation.
Maani has not been charged with any crime.
The alleged conspiracy at the heart of the Doherty indictment reportedly was tied to the renewal of SafeSpeed’s contract with Oak Lawn, which was set to expire in 2018 and which the company wanted to renew and expand.
In the indictment, prosecutors included the transcript of a May 2017 telephone conversation in which Doherty tells another SafeSpeed sales agent to pay off the Oak Lawn trustee’s relative “if it’s going to get us the job.”
“I’ll just pay it,” Doherty allegedly stated. “Just make sure we get the, make sure we get the [expletive] thing, the contract.”
SafeSpeed LLC has a contract with the village of North Riverside for the two red-light cameras it operates at Harlem Avenue and Cermak Road and one at Cermak Road and 17th Avenue.
The cameras have generated tens of millions of dollars in revenue through the issuance of tickets, predominantly to motorists who turn right on red.
Doherty also has connections to North Riverside through his role in 2017 as campaign chairman for the re-election of Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. He also was a paid consultant to the VIP Party, which has dominated North Riverside government for the past generation, during the 2019 trustee election campaign.
In addition, Doherty also is chief-of-staff for McCook Mayor and Cook County Commissioner Jeffrey Tobolski (D-16th), whose offices and home were raided by the feds last September, apparently as part of the same investigation.
Tobolski, whose county board district includes North Riverside as well as parts of Riverside and Brookfield, also has not been charged with any crime.
Arraignment for Doherty had not been scheduled as of Feb. 17.