U.S. District Court Judge Stephen R. Clark on Thursday sentenced a former St. Louis County, Missouri employee who launched a scheme to fraudulently obtain COVID-19 relief funds to 18 months in prison.
The scheme by Anthony “Tony” Weaver Sr. was “borne out of his own personal greed” and “his unbridled arrogance,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal Goldsmith said during Thursday’s sentencing hearing.
In May 2020, Weaver approached a man who owned several small businesses in St. Louis County and suggested a way to fraudulently obtain grants from the county’s Small Business Relief (SBR) Program. The program used federal CARES Act money to help small businesses deal with the cost of closures due to pandemic-related stay-at-home orders.
Weaver then prepared false grant applications seeking the maximum of $15,000 and planned to split the money with the business owner. Weaver boasted to the business owner of his position in St. Louis County government, his relationship with high-ranking officials, and his political influence, Goldsmith said.
Weaver falsely claimed in the applications that the businesses were closed and had to lay off employees during the pandemic. Weaver concealed the fact that Smith had at least 25% ownership in all six businesses because an owner was only allowed to apply for one grant.
Weaver claimed his former boss on the St. Louis County Council, Rochelle Walton Gray, would approve the grants, telling the business owner Walton Gray’s office is “going to do what I tell them to do.”
Weaver was formerly the administrative assistant for Walton Gray, who has since left the council. Weaver left for a higher-paying job as the “change management coordinator” at the St. Louis County jail. He was working at the jail at the time of his indictment in May of 2022. Weaver also served as the longtime committeeman of the Spanish Lake Township and on the board of Unity PAC, a north St. Louis County political organization.
In a May 14, 2020 meeting, Weaver told Smith, “There is a note here that Rochelle gets the final decision. They’ve got a commission, doesn’t really matter, she can override them.”
In a June 1, 2020 conversation, Weaver said, “All we have to do is apply for them because my people are inside, work their magic and do what they need to do.” He also claimed to have direct communication and conversations with the St. Louis County employee charged with overseeing the grant program.
Weaver never obtained any fraudulent grants for Smith but told Smith he’d been paid $300 as a kickback for obtaining a grant for someone else.
“Had the Defendant’s scheme been successful, it would have diverted much-needed grant funds from legitimate business applicants which actually had to close their doors and lay off employees during the pandemic,” the sentencing memorandum says.
Weaver pleaded guilty in October to four felony counts of wire fraud.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal Goldsmith is prosecuting the case.