By Alex Dobuzinskis
(Reuters) - A company that operates red-light traffic cameras will pay Chicago $20 million to settle a lawsuit arising from a bribery scheme between the firm's former chief executive and a city transportation official, officials said on Monday.
Redflex Traffic Systems Inc previously operated Chicago's red-light enforcement program, which used camera systems to catch motorists running red lights. As in other cities where similar systems are in place, it has been unpopular with drivers who were cited for traffic infractions.
The city's settlement with the firm and its Australian parent company, Redflex Holdings Ltd, ends Chicago's civil lawsuit accusing the firm of fraudulent dealings, according to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office.
"The city of Chicago will not stand by while a company takes advantage of our taxpayers and I hope that this serves as a warning to other companies that do business or hope to business with the city that we will hold those who try to take advantage of taxpayers accountable," Emanuel said in a statement.
The company will send the city $10 million by Dec. 31 and pay the rest in installments before 2024, the city and the company said in separate statements.
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"I would like to thank the groups and individuals involved in illuminating and then responsibly addressing the company's past misdeeds," Adam Gray, chairman of the Redflex board, said in a statement.
Former Redflex Traffic Systems CEO Karen Finley pleaded guilty in 2015 to one federal count of conspiracy to commit bribery. She was sentenced last year to two and a half years in prison for the Chicago bribery scheme and 14 months in prison for a similar scheme in Ohio, according to court records.
Also last year, John Bills, who was formerly an assistant transportation commissioner for Chicago, was convicted of fraud, extortion, bribery and other charges. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, according to court records.
Finley and a Redflex contractor bribed Bills, 55, with $570,000 in cash, an Arizona condo and other kickbacks, according to a criminal indictment. In exchange, Bills made sure Reflex maintained its contracts with the city.
Chicago contracted with Redflex for 11 years, with the company making as much as $25 million a year.