CRIME CONCERNS

Camera vendor admits bribery

Officials in Columbus and Cincinnati said to be linked to scheme.

By Steve Bennish
Staff Writer

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A former chief executive officer for red light ticket camera company RedFlex Traffic Systems, the vendor for red light cameras in the Dayton area, plead guilty to participating in an eight-year bribery and fraud scheme, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said Friday.

There was no mention of any links to the Dayton area, but officials in Columbus and Cincinnati were said to be involved in the scheme.

According to the plea agreement obtained by the Dayton Daily News, various unnamed elected officials in both cities received disbursements through the Democratic Party from a consultant hired by the company totalling $30,000. The payments were in the form of campaign contributions. The Columbus Dispatch was reporting Friday that one of the officials was Columbus City Council President Andrew Ginther.

came from Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Carter M. Stewart of the Southern District of Ohio and Special Agent in Charge Angela L. Byers of the FBI’s Cincinnati Field Office.

The executive, Karen L. Finley, 55, of Cave Creek, Arizona, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Terence P. Kemp of the Southern District of Ohio to a one-count information charging her with conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery and honest services wire and mail fraud.

Finley’s sentencing hearing will be scheduled at a later date, the FBI said.

According to the announcement, from December 2005 to February 2013, Finley, who served as CEO of the red light camera enforcement company, admitted that between 2005 and 2013 she participated in a scheme in which the company made campaign contributions to elected public officials in the cities of Columbus and Cincinnati through a consultant retained by the company.

While the consultant is unnamed in court documents, a Dayton Daily News review of campaign contributions found that John P. Raphael made a $20,000 contribution to the Ohio Democratic Party on Oct 21, 2011 – the amount and date referenced in the Finley plea agreement. His address is listed at 261 E. North Broadway St., Columbus.

Raphael’s clients include contractors who, according to the city auditor’s office, hold more than $61.7 million in contracts with Columbus City Hall. Raphael didn’t immediately return a request for comment left on a voice mail message system.

Among them are construction companies and Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., the company that supplies and operates the city’s red-light cameras.

“According to admissions made in connection with her plea, Finley and others, including another executive of the company, agreed to provide the conduit campaign contributions with the understanding that the elected public officials would assist the company in obtaining or retaining municipal contracts, including a photo red light enforcement contract with the city of Columbus. Finley also admitted she and her co-conspirators concealed the true nature and source of the payments by the consultant’s submission and the company’s payment of false invoices for “consulting services,” which funds the consultant then provided to the campaigns of the elected public officials,” the release said.

The FBI said the case was investigated by the FBI’s Cincinnati Field Office, Columbus Resident Agency, with the assistance of IRS-Criminal Investigations and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Traffic ticket cameras for both speeding and red light violations continue to issue tickets in Akron, Dayton and Toledo. Other cities continue to operate the cameras to record violations, but are not using them to issue violations. The three cities have challenged a state law that mandates an officer be present when tickets are issued.

Columbus Bureau reporter Laura A. Bischoff contributed to this report.