U.S. District Court Judge Stephen R. Clark on Tuesday sentenced the former president of the St. Louis Board of Alderman and two other former aldermen to prison for accepting multiple bribes to misuse their official positions. One alderman was also sentenced for committing insurance fraud in a separate case.
Judge Clark sentenced Lewis Reed, the former board president, to 45 months in prison on two bribery-related charges and fined him $18,500 to represent the value of the bribes and campaign contributions Reed accepted.
Former 22nd Ward Alderman Jeffrey L. Boyd, the former board vice president, was sentenced to 36 months for two bribery-related charges in one case and two counts of wire fraud in the insurance fraud case. Judge Clark fined Boyd $23,688, twice the value of the bribes Boyd accepted.
Judge Clark sentenced Former 21st Ward Alderman John Collins-Muhammad to 45 months in prison and a $19,500 fine on two bribery-related charges and one charge of honest services bribery/wire fraud.
“The victims here – the 300,000 residents of the city of St. Louis – expect their elected officials to do their jobs honestly and honorably, not line their pockets and swap official actions for cash,” said U.S. Attorney Sayler A. Fleming. “I hope this case demonstrates that investigating and prosecuting public corruption has been and will continue to be one of the priorities of the Justice Department and this office.”
“The victims here – the 300,000 residents of the city of St. Louis – expect their elected officials to do their jobs honestly and honorably, not line their pockets and swap official actions for cash.” – U.S. Attorney Sayler Fleming
All three former aldermen helped a businessman, identified in court documents as “John Doe,” in multiple dealings with city agencies and sponsored, supported, and signed off on multiple board bills before the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. All three also lied to FBI agents until confronted with photographs and recordings of themselves accepting bribes, Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal Goldsmith wrote in a sentencing memo.
None of the former aldermen displayed any concern about taking bribes, demonstrating through their actions and their statements that “it was simply business as usual,” Goldsmith wrote.
As an example, when John Collins-Muhammad introduced Doe to another public official to seek his help winning trucking contracts, Collins-Muhammad warned Doe that he needed to be prepared to pay a bribe. “If you don’t throw him something, he’ll never come back,” Collins-Muhammad said on an undercover recording quoted in the memo.
“This case presents a picture of greed, pure and simple,” Goldsmith wrote in the memo. “These Defendants sold their elected offices in exchange for cash bribes, campaign donations, and other things of value with total disregard for the best interests of their constituents, the real victims in this case.”
“Small businesses contribute significantly to the economic engine of our communities. It’s hard enough for entrepreneurs to establish and grow their companies without needing to pay bribes to elected officials. What these three City of St. Louis aldermen did to selfishly line their own pockets was a slap in the face to our community,” said Special Agent in Charge Jay Greenberg of the FBI St. Louis Division. “If anyone is aware of misconduct or corruption by public officials, please contact the U.S. Attorney or the FBI. Without your courage to come forward, corrupt officials will be able to continue to abuse their power for their own benefit, instead of serving the constituents who elected them.”
All three former aldermen pleaded guilty in August to all the charges in their May 2022 indictment.
Collins-Muhammad admitted accepting a total of $13,500 in cash, $3,000 in campaign contributions, a Volkswagen CC sedan, and an Apple iPhone 11 to assist Doe to obtain a multi-year property tax abatement for a building he was developing in Collins-Muhammad’s ward.
After the development sparked opposition from residents, Collins-Muhammad lied and told those residents that he would not continue to seek the tax incentives.
Collins-Muhammad also introduced Doe to other public officials, suggesting he bribe them as well. Collins-Muhammad received $3,000 for setting up the meeting with the public official about the trucking contracts. That official initially accepted a $10,000 bribe before returning the money and asking for two $5,000 checks to the official’s campaign account. The checks were never cashed or deposited and Doe never received any contracts. Collins-Muhammad then told Doe that the official wanted another $2,500 in cash, but Collins-Muhammad used the money to buy a 2008 Chevrolet Trailblazer for his own use.
Collins-Muhammad also received $1,000 from Doe for setting up a meeting with Boyd.
Reed took $6,000 in cash and $3,500 in campaign contributions to help Doe obtain Minority Business Enterprise certification and win city trucking and hauling contracts. Reed took another $9,000 total in cash to assist in the property tax abatement bid involving Collins-Muhammad.
Boyd admitted accepting a total of $9,500 from Doe for his help convincing the city’s Land Reutilization Authority to accept a lower bid from Doe for a commercial property on Geraldine Avenue in Boyd’s ward. The LRA ultimately accepted Doe’s $14,000 bid. The LRA initially listed the property as worth $50,000. Boyd then worked to get a property tax abatement for Doe.
In addition to the cash, Boyd accepted free repairs from Doe for two vehicles owned by Boyd.
In a separate case, Boyd admitted fraudulently submitting an insurance claim for three vehicles owned by Doe. A Jan. 17, 2021 accident at Doe’s used car lot damaged the vehicles, and when Doe learned that his insurance would not cover the damage, Boyd suggested falsely claiming that his company owned them.
Boyd then falsified and backdated vehicle sales records and Missouri Department of Revenue documents to claim he had paid $22,000 for the vehicles on Jan. 2. In addition to the claim for damages, Boyd also falsely attempted to claim a $200 daily storage fee for the damaged vehicles. Boyd’s insurance company ultimately rejected the claim, despite his attempt to have his insurance agent intervene.
The FBI investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal Goldsmith prosecuted the case.