CHICAGO – The former chief executive of a red-light camera company changed her plea to guilty on Thursday in a scheme that funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to secure $124 million in city of Chicago contracts.
Karen Finley, a longtime executive at Phoenix-based Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., looked calm as she pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Chicago, telling Judge Virginia Kendall she understood she now faced the possibility of spending up to five years behind bars.
Finley, 55, of Cave Creek, Arizona, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit federal-program bribery. Under the terms of a plea deal, prosecutors agreed to dismiss more than a dozen other counts. Sentencing was set for Feb. 18.
Chicago awarded its first contract to Redflex in 2003 and signed others later as it expanded its red-light enforcement program. Much-vilified by drivers, the program uses cameras to automatically record and ticket drivers who run red lights.
In June, Finley pleaded guilty to similar charges in a federal case in Ohio.
In the Chicago case, Finley acknowledged that she arranged for cash and benefits to go to a city transportation official, John Bills, and his friend; the benefits included golf trip and hiring the official’s friend as a Redflex contractor, according to the plea agreement.
Bills, who retired in 2012, has pleaded not guilty to extortion, bribery and other charges. His trial is scheduled for January.
Neither Finley nor her attorney spoke to reporters after Wednesday’s hearing.
Redflex spokesman Tilden Katz released a statement noting that Finley was replaced at the company more than two years ago.
“Today,” he said, “Redflex is focused on making a life-saving difference in the over 170 communities we serve.”
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