Six months in prison for passing along red-light camera bribes

SUN-TIMES MEDIA WIRE - The bagman who passed hundreds of thousands in bribes to a City Hall insider who rigged Chicago’s red-light camera program was sentenced Monday to six months in prison, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

Martin O’Malley, 75, admitted he passed $560,000 in cash bribes from Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. to John Bills.

ut U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall decided O’Malley will begin a short prison stint in January. Last month, the judge handed a 10-year prison sentence to Bills, a former assistant commissioner in the Chicago Department of Transportation.

O’Malley, a military veteran raised on Chicago’s South Side, met Bills at Alcoholics Anonymous in 2002, when O’Malley was down on his luck and in need of a job. Bills steered him toward a $60,000-a-year job at Redflex, which promised to pay O’Malley thousands in bonuses and commissions.

O’Malley soon learned that much of that money was meant for Bills, who had quietly steered Chicago’s lucrative red-light camera contract to the Arizona-based company. Former Redflex CEO Karen Finley testified in January that O’Malley seemed far from qualified, or even “computer savvy,” when he was hired.

But she boiled it down for a jury this way: “He takes care of John. And John took care of Redflex.”

O’Malley testified that he spent years passing cash to Bills in envelopes at Manny’s Deli or Schaller’s Pump. The feds say he and Bills sent coded emails to each other about the bribes, including one that referenced an “eight-page speed report” — an alleged reference to an $8,000 bribe.

Ex-Redflex VP Aaron Rosenberg also testified that he spoke “cryptically” about those bribes to Bills — and he covertly and illegally recorded those conversations. In one such conversation played for jurors, Rosenberg asked Bills if he received an “envelope from Marty O.” Bills later referred to that envelope as the “report on all the intersections.”

“Everything’s good?” Rosenberg asked on the recording. “It aligns?”

“Very good, very good,” Bills replied on the tape.

O’Malley also used his Redflex money to buy a $177,000 Arizona condo. It was used mostly by Bills, who parked his Mercedes there. However, O’Malley hung photos of his family in the condo to deceive investigators, according to the feds.

Still, defense attorney Michael Gillespie wrote in a court filing that O’Malley provided “exceptional assistance” to federal authorities, cooperating not only against Bills but “with other matters stemming from the conspiracy itself.” He has even met with the Australian Federal Police as part of the Redflex investigation.

Finley is due to be sentenced Nov. 10. The feds gave Rosenberg immunity.

This is the third consecutive week that a defendant has faced sentencing in a federal courtroom for his role in a Chicago kickback scheme.

Bills was sentenced Aug. 29 to 10 years in prison. Then, on Thursday, a federal judge in Atlanta sentenced former LAZ Parking VP Felipe Oropesa to six months in prison for steering a Chicago parking meter contract to a preferred company in exchange for a $90,000 bribe.

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