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Crestwood Mayor Louis Presta Accused Of Taking $5,000 Cash Bribe From Red Light Camera Company

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Crestwood Mayor Louis Presta has been indicted on bribery, misconduct, and fraud charges, accusing him of accepting a $5,000 cash bribe from a red light camera company operating cameras in the village.

Presta, 69, is charged with three counts of using a facility in interstate commerce in aid of bribery and official misconduct, two counts of willfully filing a false income tax return, one count of willfully failing to file an income tax return and one count of making false statements to the FBI and IRS.

The indictment does not identify the red light camera company involved in the case, but published reports state the company is SafeSpeed, which is at the center of a federal investigation that has also led to charges against former State Sen. Martin Sandoval and against Patrick Doherty, once chief of staff to former Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski.

According to the indictment, Presta -- who has been mayor of Crestwood since 2013 -- was caught on a recording accepting an envelope containing $5,000 in cash from a representative of the company on March 7, 2018, and then lied about it when questioned by the FBI and IRS, falsely claiming the envelope was empty. The feds say Presta also lied about accepting gifts and campaign contributions from the company.

Presta also faces charges accusing him of filing false income tax returns in 2015 and 2018, and failing to file an income tax return in 2014.

A woman who answered the door at the mayor's house when CBS 2's Jermont Terry tried to get in touch with the mayor said they had no comment about the indictment. CBS 2 also reached out to the mayor's attorney by phone and email but did not hear back Friday night.

SafeSpeed has been connected to federal charges in at least two other cases in the past year.

In January, former State Sen. Martin Sandoval pleaded guilty to agreeing to act as a "protector" for the red light camera company in exchange for thousands of dollars in bribes.

Federal prosecutors said Sandoval also took additional bribes in connection with "corrupt activities with other public officials" in exchange for using his position as a state senator and chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee to benefit other people and their business interests. Those other public officials are not named in the plea deal.

In total, prosecutors say Sandoval took $250,000 in bribes from crimes involving more than five people, including $70,000 in connection to his support for the red light camera industry.

Prosecutors say Sandoval told a representative SafeSpeed, who was cooperating with a federal probe, that he would "go balls to the wall for anything you ask me" during a meeting at a Burr Ridge restaurant in July 2018. A month later, he took $15,000 in cash from that person at another meeting at the same restaurant.

Months later, Sandoval also arranged for $5,000 monthly payments from the SafeSpeed representative, according to the plea deal.

Sandoval was charged with one count of bribery involving federal programs and one count of fraud and false statements. He pleaded guilty to both counts and faces a maximum of 13 years in prison.

Sandoval is cooperating with federal investigators as part of his plea deal.

Weeks after Sandoval pleaded guilty, Patrick Doherty, who was chief of staff for former Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski, was indicted on federal bribery charges accusing him of conspiring to pay bribes to a relative of an Oak Lawn village trustee in order to install new red light cameras in the southwest suburb.

According to the indictment, Doherty also worked as a sales agent for SafeSpeed, and as part of his employment with them, received a portion of the proceeds from red light camera violations generated by their cameras.

Doherty has pleaded not guilty.

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