By Mike Rush
ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - The suicide of a senior official with the St. Louis County Health Department was most likely connected to allegations he used his position to funnel millions of dollars into his own pockets. That's what the St. Louis County police chief says, as he considers bringing in the FBI.
In the St. Louis County Health Department, a spokesperson says Edward Mueth was a trusted employee, charged with accountability and responsibility at a high level. The 39-year-old answered to the director herself. But had he lived, Mueth would have had to answer questions from the police.
"At the most it could be stealing. It could be outright stealing of taxpayer dollars," said St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch. Fitch outlined allegations against Mueth.
"That this individual had set up a company or companies under other names, not his own, and then had started generating invoices to the health department and then approving the invoices for this company to be paid," said the chief.
Fitch says it looks like Mueth provided computers and other equipment to the health department and that he could have overcharged. In addition, the chief says it's possible Mueth outright stole money from his workplace.
"This may have been going on for five to six years, and the dollar amount could be in the millions," Fitch said.
The health department, preparing for next year's budget, came across several questionable invoices, all pointing back to Mueth.
Mueth was to meet with the director Friday, but was found dead Thursday on the 8800 block of Big Bend Boulevard in Webster Groves.
"I would tell you that there would probably be a pretty strong correlation between the two," said Chief Fitch when asked if the suicide and the investigation were connected.
Mueth's body was discovered less than a quarter mile from his large home. His lifestyle appeared to outpace his $86,000 year salary at the health department. County records show he bought his house, with a pool and tennis court, in 2010 for just under $1.5 million.
Webster Groves records show he just completed adding two more garages to his three-car garage, a $35,000 project. His property taxes last year were more than $20,000. Records show Mueth filed for bankruptcy in 2004.
Chief Fitch says the big question now is, were others involved? If so, because of the large amount of money, some of which could be federal dollars, he will ask the FBI to investigate.