ST. LOUIS – Two current and one former St. Louis aldermen, including board President Lewis Reed, have been indicted on federal charges accusing them of misusing their offices on multiple occasions in multiple ways in exchange for cash bribes and other things of value.
Reed, 22nd Ward Alderman Jeffrey L. Boyd and former 21st Ward Alderman John Collins-Muhammad were all indicted May 25. Collins-Muhammad resigned his office on May 12, 2022 due to the ongoing criminal investigation. They are scheduled to turn themselves in and make their first appearance in court Thursday at 1 p.m. Reed is facing two bribery-related charges. Collins-Muhammad has been indicted on two bribery-related charges and one charge of honest services bribery/wire fraud. Boyd is facing two bribery related charges and a separate, two count wire fraud indictment alleging he fraudulently sought $22,000 from his insurance company for damage to vehicles that he falsely claimed to own.
The main indictment alleges Collins-Muhammad and Reed helped a small business owner obtain a lucrative property tax abatement in exchange for a series of cash bribes related to what the indictment refers to as “project A.”
The indictment also alleges that in “project B,” Boyd accepted cash to help the business owner buy a city-owned property for tens of thousands of dollars less than it was worth, and accepted more cash to help the business owner obtain a lucrative tax abatement for that project.
The indictment lays out a years-long scheme in which Collins-Muhammad, and later Reed, sought to help the business owner, referred to in the indictment as “John Doe,” obtain a significant property tax abatement for a new gas station and convenience store development in Collins-Muhammad’s ward. Doe estimated that the abatement could be worth $20,000 to $30,000 per year over at least 10 years, the indictment says. In all, Reed accepted $9,000 in cash from Doe, the indictment alleges. Collins-Muhammad accepted $7,000 cash, $3,000 in campaign contributions, a new iPhone 11 and a 2016 Volkswagen CC sedan in exchange for his help, the indictment alleges. Collins-Muhammad and Reed ultimately worked to pass Board Bills which provided the property tax abatement for Project A.
During Reed’s 2021 run for mayor, Doe also gave Reed $6,000 total in cash and $3,500 in campaign contributions for Reed’s help in Doe’s ultimately unsuccessful attempt to obtain Minority Business Enterprise certification for his trucking company, and for help in winning contracts for city construction projects, the indictment alleges.
Collins-Muhammad is also accused of accepting $3,000 after setting up a meeting with a public official who could steer business to Doe’s trucking company. Collins-Muhammad later asked for $2,500 more on behalf of the official, but instead used it to buy a 2008 Chevrolet Trailblazer, the indictment alleges.
A separate scheme set out in the main indictment involved Doe’s purchase of a commercial property on Geraldine Avenue in St. Louis from the city’s Land Reutilization Authority, which owns and sells vacant property. The property was in Boyd’s ward.
Collins-Muhammad introduced Doe to Boyd so Boyd could help in the purchase, telling Doe that he would have to pay cash for Boyd’s help, the indictment says. Through Boyd’s assistance, Doe eventually was able to buy the property from the LRA for $14,000. The LRA valued it at $50,000, and Doe estimated it would have cost $250,000 if privately sold, the indictment alleges. Boyd also submitted and sponsored a board bill which provided a substantial property tax abatement for Doe’s Project B.
Boyd accepted a total of $9,500 in cash from Doe related to Project B, and Doe also made free repairs worth $1,611 to Boyd’s 2006 Chevrolet Impala and $733 to his Kia van, the indictment alleges. Collins-Muhammad received an additional $1,000 cash for introducing Doe to Boyd.
Boyd was indicted in a separate case on two counts of wire fraud for a scheme in which he and Doe are accused of agreeing to split the proceeds of insurance fraud related to a Jan. 17, 2021 vehicle accident at Doe’s used car lot in Jennings, Missouri.
After Doe learned his insurance company would not cover the damage, Boyd suggested falsely claiming that three of the damaged vehicles were owned by his used car company, The Best Place Auto Sales on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive in St. Louis, the indictment alleges.
Boyd filled out Missouri Department of Revenue bill of sale and certificate of title forms for the three vehicles, fraudulently backdating the sales dates to Jan. 2 and falsely claiming Boyd’s company had paid $22,000 for the vehicles, the indictment says. Boyd also falsely sought a $50 per vehicle, per day storage fee from Boyd’s insurance company for the damaged vehicles. Boyd’s insurance company ultimately rejected the claim.
If convicted of the main indictment, Reed’s and Boyd’s charges carry maximum penalties of 10 years and five years in prison, respectively, and a $250,000 fine. Collins-Muhammad’s honest services bribery/wire fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. One of his bribery charges carries a 10-year maximum and the other has a five-year maximum. Boyd’s additional wire fraud charges related to the automobile insurance scheme carry maximum penalties of 20 years and a $250,000 fine. Restitution is also mandatory. In determining the actual sentences, a judge is required to consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide recommended sentencing ranges.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Hal Goldsmith is prosecuting the case.
The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.