Former Crestwood Mayor Pleads Guilty To Red-Light Camera Bribery Scheme

by P. J. McNeal, The Chicago Times

November 18, 2021

CHICAGO — The former mayor of Crestwood, IL, pleaded guilty to a federal corruption charge on Wednesday, admitting to improperly soliciting and receiving benefits from a representative of a red-light camera company that provided services to Crestwood.

Louis Presta, 71, of Crestwood, pleaded guilty to one count of using an interstate commerce facility to aid bribery and official misconduct, as well as one count of filing a false income tax return.  Bribery is punishable by up to five years in federal prison, while tax evasion is punishable by up to three years.  The sentencing date has been set for February 23, 2022 by U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin.

John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, Emmerson Buie, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge of the FBI’s Chicago Field Office, and Justin Campbell, Special Agent-in-Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago, announced the guilty plea.

Assistant United States Attorneys Christopher J. Stetler and James P. Durkin are representing the government.

According to Presta’s plea agreement, Presta admitted that the red-light camera company provided Crestwood with camera services, allowing the municipality to issue tickets to motorists for certain traffic violations.  While the company was attempting to provide additional services to Crestwood, then-Mayor Presta requested and received benefits from a company representative.  Presta told the red-light camera company’s representative that in exchange for a cash payment from the representative, Presta would ensure that the percentage of red-light traffic violations approved by Presta would remain high or increase.

The plea agreement goes on to describe a phone call between Presta and a company representative on February 27, 2018, during which Presta updated the representative on the higher percentage of approved red-light traffic violations for the previous week.

“We are starting to get the numbers back… you got a new sheriff in town,” Presta said during the call.

Presta received a $5,000 cash bribe from a company representative shortly after that call on March 7, 2018.  When questioned about his receipt of the $5,000 bribe by federal law enforcement, Presta falsely stated that he neither asked for nor received the $5,000 bribe.

Presta admitted in the plea agreement, in addition to the bribery scheme, that he willfully filed a false personal income tax return for the calendar year 2015.