Crestwood mayor resigns, pleads guilty in red light camera bribery case

WGN Investigates

The one time “king of Crestwood,” Lou Presta has resigned as the suburb’s mayor hours before he pleaded guilty in a federal bribery case. 

“It has been an honor serving the residents of our village as a trustee and as mayor,” Presta wrote in his three sentence resignation letter to the village board. I will make myself available to my successor to provide a smooth transition.”

A cloud of controversy has long hung over Presta’s reign as federal investigators have conducted a wide-ranging probe of bribery related to the implementation of Safe Speed’s red light camera network in Crestwood and other suburbs. 

In February, WGN Investigates reported Crestwood’s cameras had generated more than $2.2 million for the village – and an additional $1.1 million for Safe Speed – since October 2019, when FBI agents first carried out publicly known raids related to the company.  

The company’s cameras continue to operate in Crestwood and nearly two dozen suburbs.   Former State Sen. Martin Sandoval was charged and pleaded guilty to a bribery scheme that accused him of using his influence to advocate for the red light camera system .  Sandoval died of COVID-related illness in 2020.

Mayor Presta was accused of accepting a $5,000 bribe from a then-executive with Safe Speed, Omar Maani.  Presta previously denied wrongdoing and claimed the envelope with the bribe was empty. 

A Safe Speed spokesperson has previously characterized the bribery scheme as the actions of a lone, rogue executive who is no longer with the company.

Despite Presta’s guilty plea in the bribery case, as well as failure to file a tax return and under-reporting income, the former mayor’s attorney downplayed his client’s actions.

“Lou Presta pled guilty to bribery in that he accepted campaign contributions under the pretense that he would look into increasing red light violations in Crestwood and would also look into a second red light intersection.  Lou Presta did neither,” a statement from attorney Thomas Breen said.

Presta faces a maximum of 5 years in prison on the bribery/official misconduct charges and 3 years on the tax offense, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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