Former Crestwood Mayor Louis Presta pleaded guilty to corruption allegations on Wednesday, admitting he was demanding cash payments from a red light camera company representative and telling a federal judge that he left his position with the village on Tuesday.
“I resigned last night,” 71-year-old Presta told US District Judge Thomas Durkin at the beginning of a hearing on Wednesday.
Presta then pleaded guilty to bribery and official misconduct, as well as filing a false income tax return. He faces a prison sentence of two years or more.
Presta’s attorney told the judge last September to cancel his trial in Chicago Federal Court pending Presta’s admission of guilt.
Then in October the public learned that Presta planned to step down from his top job in the village and take a new, unelected position that would have paid him the same salary. He eventually withdrew and told the angry Crestwood Civic Center voters that these plans had been put on hold “based on the decisions of the board of directors, my attorney and my doctors.”
Presta easily won re-election last April, despite charges brought against him. Village officials declined to comment on Presta’s status on Wednesday morning.
Presta has faced federal charges of bribery, false tax returns, and lying to the FBI and IRS since August 2020. Presta lied about whether an envelope he took during a March 2018 meeting with a representative of the politically affiliated red-light camera company SafeSpeed was charged with $ 5,000.
It was said that Presta applied for and received benefits of SafeSpeed agents while SafeSpeed sought to expand its services in Crestwood. During Wednesday’s hearing, he admitted that he was soliciting funds for his campaign for the Cook County Commissioner under the program and at one point told a SafeSpeed representative, “You have a new sheriff in town.”
The indictment also states Presta spoke to federal agencies on September 26, 2019, amid a series of raids by federal agents that included government offices in the southwestern suburbs.
Federal authorities said Presta denied any gifts or cash donations from SafeSpeed for the campaign. If a recording from March 7, 2018 is shown, At a meeting where federal authorities say he accepted the envelope containing $ 5,000 in cash, Presta lied and said there was no money in it, according to the indictment.
SafeSpeed has not been charged with a crime, and the company portrayed a former partner there as a villain actor.
The indictment also accuses Presta of filing false income tax returns for 2015 and 2018, as well as failing to file income tax returns for 2014.
Records filed last month show that Presta’s campaign fund paid $ 25,000 to Breen & Pugh, who is representing him in criminal proceedings.
Contributor: Mitchell Armentrout