Two former employees of the small St. Louis County city of Flordell Hills were accused in a grand jury indictment Wednesday of stealing a total of $663,000 over six years, well over the city’s typical annual budget.
Maureen Woodson, the former city clerk, and Donna Thompson, the former assistant city clerk, were each indicted on two counts of wire fraud and two counts of mail fraud.
The indictment says from roughly February 2016 to April 2022, Woodson, 68, and Thompson, 75, used two schemes to enrich themselves at the expense of the struggling city.
The pair wrote about 614 city checks to themselves totaling more than $531,000 without the authority or knowledge of Flordell Hills and its mayor, treasurer, or board of aldermen, the indictment says. About 368 checks worth $376,026 were written to Woodson and 246 checks worth $155,329 were written to Thompson. The signature of the mayor and/or the treasurer, which were needed to authorize payment, were forged by the women, the indictment says.
The pair used the money to pay personal expenses and for gambling both online and at area casinos, the indictment says.
In the second scheme alleged in the indictment, Woodson and Thompson used $132,249 in city funds to directly pay personal expenses including retail vendor charges, entertainment, restaurant bills, rent for their home, and taxes they owed to the Internal Revenue Service. The women either used Flordell Hills bank checks to pay the bills or used wire transfers of city money.
“The amount of money at issue, in this case, is stunning, particularly from a small city with so many residents below the poverty line,” said U.S. Attorney Sayler Fleming. “The loss of this money meant the city could sometimes not pay their bills,” she added.
Special Agent in Charge Jay Greenberg of the FBI St. Louis Division said, “It would be devastating for any city to have its money stolen year over year. It’s exponentially worse when an impoverished community gets fleeced by those sworn to serve it. Fighting public corruption is the FBI’s top criminal priority because such crimes undermine the community’s faith in our government.”
Each charge carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both.
The indictment also contains a forfeiture provision seeking to recover the money.
Woodson was hired in 2010 and Thompson in 2012. Both women were terminated in May.
Flordell Hills is roughly six blocks square and has a population of about 800. Approximately 53.9% of those residents live below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The case was investigated by the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal Goldsmith is prosecuting the case.