4/21/2022Illinois Mayor Fights Corruption Charge In Red Light Camera Scandal
Former mayor of Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois, denied charges that he took bribes to install red light cameras.
By Richard Diamond
Tony Ragucci, the former mayor of Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois, on Thursday entered a not guilty plea to federal red light camera corruption charges. In a hearing conducted by telephone before the US District Court in Chicago, Ragucci explained that he understood his rights and wanted to proceed with defending against allegations that he had a role in the scheme orchestrated by Safespeed operatives to install automated ticketing machines in the city to generate revenue both for Safespeed and for Ragucci personally. The deal gave Safespeed's sales agent a $14 cut of every photo ticket issued.
"Anthony Ragucci, defendant herein, together with [unnamed co-conspirators] devised, intended to devise, and participated in a scheme to defraud the city of Oakbrook Terrace and the people of Oakbrook Terrace of the intangible right to the honest services of Ragucci through bribery and kickbacks, which scheme is further described below," Assistant U.S. Attorney Amarjeet S. Bhachu wrote in the document laying out charges against Ragucci.
The scheme fell apart quickly. Ragucci signed a contract with Safespeed in 2012, and the cameras were installed in August 2017. By January 2018, Safespeed co-founder Omar Maani cut a deal with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, agreeing to turn informant against the public officials he had been bribing in return for staying out of prison. That information triggered a raid on Ragucci's home from which federal investigators seized nearly $60,000 in cash.
Justice Department officials claimed they found evidence that Safespeed's sales agent offered to put Ragucci's relative on the payroll in return for his support of the photo enforcement plan. Instead of hiring the relative, however, the agent just paid him $3500 per month in an amount that increased if the number of photo tickets issued in the city also went up.
Likewise, Ragucci allegedly pocketed a monthly sum from the sales agent, who was not named. After the salesman died in January 2018, family members took over sales job. On July 19, 2018, Ragucci demanded a $5000 bonus from them for renewing the red light camera contract from Maani -- according to the charging document -- and he received it two weeks later. The following year he allegedly asked for a $7500 renewal bonus.
According to the DOJ's charging document, Safespeed on September 14, 2018, wired $100,305 to the sales company that distributed the bribe payments. Ragucci was charged with claiming on his 2018 tax form that he earned $95,830 when his true income "substantially exceeded that amount" thanks to the bribes. He is also charged with wire fraud. The maximum penalty if convicted would be 23 years in prison, 4 years probation and a $500,000 fine. Sentencing guidelines, however, would substantially reduce the expected time behind bars.
Ragucci was released on a $10,000 bond. A hearing was set for April 28. Ragucci is the sixth official charged in the Safespeed scandal.