Monday, April 19, 2021

Former Cook County official faces additional charges in red-light bribery


Federal prosecutors said Tuesday that new charges are expected to be brought against a longtime Democratic operative accused of conspiring to pay bribes to a relative of an Oak Lawn trustee to get lucrative red-light cameras installed there.

Patrick Doherty, 64, the former chief of staff to ex-Cook County Commissioner and McCook Mayor Jeffrey Tobolski, was charged in February in a three-count indictment with bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery. He has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors alleged Doherty conspired with Omar Maani, a co-owner of SafeSpeed LLC, as well as another sales agent for the company to pay $4,000 in bribes in exchange for the official support of an Oak Lawn trustee to add cameras at additional intersections.

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During a brief status hearing Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Stetler said prosecutors expect to file “additional charges” against Doherty within the next several months. He did not elaborate on the nature of the new counts.

Doherty’s attorney, Michael Joseph Monaco, told the judge prosecutors have so far turned over more than 6,000 wiretapped phone calls stemming from the investigation and that they are in a “holding pattern” in the case until the new charges are brought.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman set a status hearing for Jan. 13.

Maani, who wore a wire as part of the sprawling federal investigation, was charged with bribery in August and has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. attorney’s office.

Tobolski, meanwhile, pleaded guilty in September to separate extortion charges alleging he shook down a McCook restaurant owner for cash in exchange for a license to sell liquor at private events. Tobolski is also cooperating with investigators.

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The investigation also ensnared former state Sen. Martin Sandoval, who pleaded guilty in January to bribery and tax charges. He admitted to taking at least $70,000 in government-supplied cash from Maani in return for acting as SafeSpeed’s “protector” in the state Senate.

SafeSpeed and company CEO Nikki Zollar have denied any wrongdoing.

The charges against Maani and Doherty center on a scheme to renew SafeSpeed’s camera contract in Oak Lawn, where the company had been since 2014, and increase the number of intersections the deal covered.

In a recorded phone call in May 2017, Doherty told the other SafeSpeed agent he’d pay the trustee’s close relative the money “if it’s going to get us the job,” according to the indictment filed against Doherty.

“I’ll just pay it,” Doherty allegedly said on the call. “Just make sure we get the, make sure we get the (expletive) thing, the contract.”

The payments were going to be doled out to the relative in $500 installments over a period of eight weeks, according to the charges. To hide the purpose of the bribes, the money would come from a company where Doherty was a manager.

On June 13, 2017, the FBI recorded Doherty on a cellphone call telling the trustee’s relative, “It’s not like I need ya,” but that he’d pay the money anyway, according to the charges.

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Two days later, Doherty cut the relative a $500 check for the first installment, the indictment alleged.



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