Top St. Louis City leaders indicted in shocking federal investigation | St. Louis Metro News | St Louis | News and Events in St. Louis

click to enlarge Board of Aldermen Chairman Lewis Reed speaks to reporters after federal court hearing on Thursday - MONICA OBRADOVIC

Monica Obradovic

Board of Aldermen chairman Lewis Reed speaks with reporters after a federal court hearing on Thursday

Three senior city officials have been charged with federal corruption related to tax cuts after a two-and-a-half-year investigation by the FBI.

Former 21st District Representative John Collins-Muhammad, Councilor President Lewis Reed and 22nd District Councilor Jeffrey Boyd each face two bribery charges. Collins-Muhammad has also been charged with a third charge of honest bribery of services/wire fraud.

In addition to his two bribery charges, Boyd faces a separate two-count fraud charge for a 2021 settlement in which Boyd allegedly asked $22,000 from his insurance company for damage to vehicles that did not belong to him.

At a hearing Thursday, all three co-defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges.

According to a 66-page indictment, Collins-Muhammad and Reed attempted to help an anonymous entrepreneur receive property taxes for a new gas station and convenience store in the Collin-Muhammad neighborhood. The discount would have saved the business owner — identified in the lawsuit as John Doe — about $250,000 over a 10-year span.

Prosecutors allege Collins-Muhammad and Reed took thousands of dollars in cash and gifts in exchange for helping Doe. According to the indictment, Collins-Muhammad accepted $7,000 in cash, $3,000 in campaign contributions, a new iPhone 11 and a 2016 Volkswagen sedan from Doe. Reed is said to have accepted $3,500 in campaign contributions and $4,000 in cash payments.

According to the indictment, Boyd may have also taken cash in the amount of $9,500 to assist Doe in purchasing real estate in his ward from the city’s Land Reutilization Authority at a fraction of the cost.

According to Hal Goldsmith, an assistant attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, the charges against Collins-Muhammad, Reed and Boyd were the result of an undercover investigation conducted by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“That undercover investigation involved the cooperation of a number of witnesses, the undercover recordings of literally hundreds of meetings and telephone conversations, court-ordered search warrants and telephone warrants, the review of thousands of text messages and email communications, as well as all traditional surveillance techniques,” he said. goldsmith.

A subpoena last month by the FBI against the St. Louis Development Corporation for texts, voicemails, financial documents and other records at 5337 Von Phul Street and 4201 Geraldine Avenue sheds some light on that investigation. Both properties belong to Mohammed Almuttan, who was indicted in 2017 along with 34 others in an alleged plan to buy cheap cigarettes in Missouri and trade them in New Jersey and Illinois. The scheme also included synthetic drugs and money laundering. Almuttan owns several gas stations and convenience stores in the city and county of northern St. Louis. KSDK reports that Almuttan’s charges were dropped in April. In May, Collins-Muhammad resigned from the board of aldermen amid a federal investigation.

US Magistrate Judge John Bodenhausen has ordered Reed, Collins-Muhammad and Boyd not to contact each other while the case continues. Bodenhausen said Reed and Boyd could talk “as long as their conversations are public” in situations such as council of aldermen meetings. Reed and Boyd both still serve on the Board of Aldermen of the City of St. Louis.

After the hearing, Reed said he had no intention of stepping down. He told reporters he doesn’t expect his voters to demand his resignation, as “an indictment doesn’t mean guilt,” he said.

“The voters know me,” Reed said. “Voters know the more than 20 years I have served. They know my file. I’ve led every major development in this city for 20 years, so voters have had enough.”

click to enlarge John Collins-Muhammad (center) leaves the Thomas F. Eagleton US Courthouse after a hearing on Thursday.  -MONICA OBRADOVIC

Monica Obradovic

John Collins-Muhammad (center) leaves the Thomas F. Eagleton US Courthouse after a hearing on Thursday.

Collins-Muhammad and Boyd did not respond to questions after Thursday’s hearing.

Allegations in the indictment date back to at least January 2020, when Doe Collins-Muhammad asked for help in obtaining a real estate tax relief.

Collins-Muhammad filed multiple bills with the St. Louis Board of Aldermen for Doe to receive the tax credit for his property. In January 2021, voters in the Collins-Muhammad district heard about one such measure, Board Bill 108, and expressed concern about the planned development of Doe and the potential tax cuts the bill would provide. Collins-Muhammad then placed the bill on the board’s informal calendar and it never went ahead with final approval.

In October of that year, a nearly identical bill sponsored by Collins-Muhammad was passed by the Board of Aldermen. It took effect in November.

According to the indictment, on January 28, 2021, Doe met Reed, who was running for mayor at the time. Doe is said to have given Reed $2,000 in exchange for Reed helping Doe obtain Minority Business Enterprise certification for his transportation and transportation company. The indictment also alleges that Reed “agreed to help John Doe secure contracts to haul and transport trucks for future construction projects in the city.”

click to enlarge Department 22 Councilor Jeffrey Boyd remains silent as reporters storm him with questions.  -MONICA OBRADOVIC

Monica Obradovic

Department 22 Councilor Jeffrey Boyd remains silent as reporters storm him with questions.

In a separate settlement, on July 25, 2020, the indictment alleges that Collins-Muhammad and Doe met Boyd at Boyd’s banquet hall. At the meeting, Doe gave Boyd $2,500 in cash for his help.

Boyd sent a letter to the Land Reutilization Authority saying he supported Doe by paying $9,000 for a piece of land in his neighborhood that was valued at $459,000.

Later, Doe texted Boyd a thank you message for the help.

Boyd texted Doe back, “My pleasure. I’m very PRO BUSINESS.”

On another point, the lawsuit alleges that Doe repaired a 2006 Chevrolet Impala for Boyd for free. Boyd requested that he receive a receipt for the repairs and get the stamp “paid” despite the repairs being made free of charge. When Doe cooperated, Boyd is said to have replied “Wundebar”. (probably meaning) AwesomeGerman for great.)

The indictment cites the specific ordinance applicable to aldermen, which states: “No officer or employee may, for personal gain, grant any special consideration, treatment or advantage to any person. Nor shall an officer make any payment or gift of money or anything else of value for any service rendered in his official capacity, nor for the performance of any act for which he is required by law.”

If convicted on the lead charge, Reed could face up to 10 years in prison and pay a $250,000 fine.

The maximum sentence for Boyd is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Boyd’s additional insurance settlement wire fraud charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Collins-Muhammad’s bribery/transfer charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. One of his two bribery charges could carry a maximum sentence of 10 years and the other a maximum sentence of five years, the US Attorney’s Office said.

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