Monday, May 17, 2021

Former Worth Township supervisor charged in red-light camera bribery probe


A former Illinois state representative and longtime supervisor of Worth Township was charged Friday in a plot to pay bribes to a relative of an Oak Lawn trustee in 2017 to get lucrative red-light cameras installed there.

John O’Sullivan, 53, of Oak Lawn, was charged in a criminal information filed in U.S. District Court with one count of bribery conspiracy.

Defendants charged via an information, rather than by grand jury indictment, typically intend to plead guilty. O’Sullivan’s attorney was not immediately available for comment.

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O’Sullivan was accused of conspiring with longtime political operative Patrick Doherty and an executive representing red-light camera company SafeSpeed LCC to pay $4,000 in bribes in exchange for the official support of an Oak Lawn trustee to add red-light cameras at additional intersections.

At the time, O’Sullivan was moonlighting as a paid “sales consultant” for SafeSpeed, helping increase the company’s footprint in the west and southwest suburbs.

The SafeSpeed executive, Omar Maani, was cooperating with federal investigators and recorded calls and meetings between the three men for the FBI. Maani was charged last year with bribery conspiracy as part of a deferred prosecution agreement with prosecutors, who have said they will dismiss the case if he continues to cooperate.

Doherty also was charged last year as part of the same scheme and is awaiting trial. Prosecutors have said in court that additional charges are expected to be filed against Doherty in the coming weeks.

O’Sullivan had a long history in Cook County politics, having served as a staffer to former Cook County Commissioner Ed Moody as well as trustee and later supervisor for Worth Township, a stronghold of former House Speaker Michael Madigan.

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Records show O’Sullivan submitted his letter of resignation as township supervisor to the board on Feb. 28, 2020, two weeks after Doherty was indicted. The trustee who motioned up O’Sullivan’s resignation for a vote, Richard Lewandowski, was later indicted on federal tax charges stemming from the same overarching probe.

O’Sullivan also served a brief stint as an appointed state House lawmaker, and voted as a lame duck in January 2011 for a 67% income tax hike driven by Madigan. In doing so, O’Sullivan supplied one of the 60 bare minimum votes to pass the tax hike in the House in the 11th hour of a General Assembly in which his term would expire.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle later put O’Sullivan on the county payroll as an $85,000-a-year regional superintendent at the Cook County Forest Preserve District. Preckwinkle also hired Michael Carberry, another appointed state representative who also voted for the tax hike.

Preckwinkle, who had vowed to end patronage hiring when running for board president, initially defended hiring O’Sullivan and Carberry, describing their service in Springfield as a “credit” to their qualifications for county jobs.

But O’Sullivan only worked for the forest preserve for a short time before resigning over what officials said were resume discrepancies.

It wasn’t the first time O’Sullivan had departed a county job. He was fired from a position at Stroger Hospital for allegedly falsifying time cards, according to an inspector general’s report, but later was rehired with back pay after challenging the decision.

According to federal prosecutors, Doherty, O’Sullivan and Maani were seeking in 2017 to renew SafeSpeed’s camera contract in Oak Lawn and increase the number of intersections the deal covered. They also allegedly hoped the trustee would support a measure to have the suburb “use more-lenient standards in approving proposed traffic violations” submitted by SafeSpeed, prosecutors have alleged.

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In a recorded phone call on May 23, 2017, Doherty told Maani that the Oak Lawn trustee was “looking for a job for his kid,” to which Maani asked whether he would want to be a violations reviewer for SafeSpeed, according to Maani’s deferred prosecution agreement, which offered the most detailed version of the alleged scheme.

“I don’t know,” Doherty allegedly replied. “I think he’s looking to make as much money as he can because he’s going to college. … I pay him out of my LLC. Something like that. I don’t know. Something for him to do.”

In another call two days later, Doherty again brought up the idea of paying the trustee’s son, saying he was willing put in “a couple grand” of his own money if it guaranteed them getting the other red-light camera locations, according to Maani’s agreement.

“Honestly, let me think about it,” Maani replied. “I’ll come up with something. I’ll think of something.”

Eventually, it was decided that payments were going to be doled out to the relative in $500 installments over a period of eight weeks, according to the indictment filed against Doherty in February 2020. To hide the purpose of the bribes, the money would come from a company where Doherty was a manager, the indictment stated.

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

In early June 2017, Maani paid for a ticket for the trustee “to come to an event at a cigar lounge” because Maani wanted to gain the trustee’s favor, according to the Maani agreement. The agreement does not name the lounge, but other court records show Maani was associated with the Casa Montecristo in west suburban Countryside.

About a week after that cigar lounge event, the FBI recorded Doherty telling the trustee’s son, “It’s not like I need ya,” but that he’d pay the money anyway, according to the indictment against Doherty.

Doherty then cut the relative a $500 check for the first installment, the indictment alleged. Prosecutors have not said whether the rest of the money was ever paid.

Maani’s cooperation also led to charges against former state Sen. Martin Sandoval, who pleaded guilty last year 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. Sandoval was cooperating with prosecutors when he died in December of COVID-19-related illness.

SafeSpeed, meanwhile, has denied any wrongdoing, saying the $20,000 in donations were legal campaign contributions. The company also said Doherty and Maani were acting without their knowledge.


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