By Brendan O'Brien
(Reuters) - A retired Chicago official who once ran the city's red light camera program was charged with graft on Wednesday on suspicion of taking bribes in return for contracts worth $124 million for cameras used to catch motorists running stop lights.
John Bills, 52, was charged with one count of bribery in U.S. District Court for allegedly steering city contracts for 384 cameras and other services to Redflex Traffic Systems, the U.S. Department of Justice in Chicago said in a statement.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Bills' attorney, Nishay Sanan, said the veteran former city official was being used as a scapegoat by prosecutors who sought to implicate others in the scheme.
Redflex said it has been cooperating with authorities.
"Last year, we publicly released the findings of our internal investigation into the conduct of several former employees and announced new leadership, new policies and a line between our past and today's Redflex," it said in a statement.
Bills managed the red light camera program until he retired in 2011 after working for the city for 32 years, according to prosecutors.
An unnamed individual at Reflex was said to have funneled more than $643,000 in cash to Bills between 2006 and 2011, according to the complaint, which said he spent the money for travel, a luxury car and to pay off loans.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel called for an investigation of Redflex in 2012 before the city cut ties with the company, according to the Tribune.
(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Jon Herskovitz, Tom Brown and Clarence Fernandez)