A former Illinois mayor pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges on Nov. 17 and admitted he improperly sought cash payments from a representative at SafeSpeed, a red-light camera company, the Department of Justice announced.
Louis Presta, who reportedly has resigned as mayor of Crestwood, Illinois, pleaded guilty to one count of using a facility in interstate commerce in aid of bribery and official misconduct, as well as to filing a false income tax return.
He faces up to five years in federal prison for bribery and up to three years for the tax offense. Presta, 71, is set to be sentenced on Feb. 23, 2022.
Presta’s guilty plea comes more than a year after he was charged in a federal indictment with bribery and official misconduct, lying to the FBI and IRS, and tax charges.
The indictment claims that Presta sought and received benefits from SafeSpeed representatives while the company sought to expand its services in Crestwood, which enabled the municipality to issue tickets to motorists for certain traffic violations.
During that time and while the company was attempting to provide additional services to Crestwood, Presta allegedly asked for and accepted benefits from representatives of the company, the indictment states.
The former mayor allegedly told the red-light camera company’s representative that he would ensure that the percentage of red-light traffic violations that he approved would remain high or increase, in exchange for gifts and rewards.
Presta then allegedly lied to the FBI and IRS about his request and receipt of gifts, cash, or campaign contributions from the red-light camera company.
As per the August indictment, Presta was shown a recording from March 7, 2018, in which he met with the company representative and allegedly accepted an envelope containing $5,000 in cash. Presta allegedly denied to law enforcement officials that there was any money in the envelope and rejected claims that he asked for the $5,000 bribe.
During one recorded phone call with the company’s representative before taking the bribe, Presta touted a recent increase in violations, saying: “We’re starting to get the numbers again. You got a new sheriff in town,” according to the DOJ.
The guilty pleas came one day after Presta, who led southwest suburban Crestwood for nearly a decade, reportedly quit his position on Nov. 16. A village official emailed the Chicago Tribune a copy of Presta’s resignation letter, which said he was resigning “effective immediately.”
“It has been an honor serving the residents of our Village as a Trustee and as Mayor,” the letter reads. “I will make myself available to my successor to provide a smooth transition.”
SafeSpeed officials and Presta didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Presta, a Democrat, was first elected mayor in 2013. Prior to that, he was president of Cicero News Agency and village trustee. In 2016, he received the Mayor of the Year Award from the Illinois Crime Commission.