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Former Alderman John Collins-Muhammad pleads guilty to bribery charges

Collins-Muhammad changed his plea to guilty in federal court Tuesday afternoon. A judge set his sentencing hearing for Dec. 6.

ST. LOUIS — Former St. Louis Alderman John Collins-Muhammad became the first official to plead guilty in connection with a years-long federal bribery investigation.

Collins-Muhammad changed his plea to guilty in federal court Tuesday afternoon. A judge set his sentencing hearing for Dec. 6 at 1:30 p.m. The maximum sentence could include up to 35 years in prison and up to $750,000 in fines.

The judge permitted Collins Muhammad to remain out on bond until his December court hearing. Collins Mohammad must pay restitution for the bribes and gifts he received.

Collins-Muhammad, who resigned from the Board of Aldermen in May, previously pleaded not guilty to the charges, which allege he and former aldermen Jeffrey Boyd and Lewis Reed accepted cash bribes in exchange for advancing tax abatement legislation. Boyd and Reed also pleaded not guilty.

On June 2, Federal prosecutors revealed explosive allegations of bribery, theft and corruption reaching the highest levels of St. Louis City Hall in a 66-page indictment.

According to the indictment, Collins-Muhammad accepted a free 2016 Volkswagen CC sedan, a new Apple iPhone 11, and at least $3,000 in campaign contributions, along with several cash payments throughout a lengthy process as he tried to steer legislation through the city council that would benefit a gas station development project of Mohammed Almuttan, a local gas station owner who was indicted in 2017 on drug and money laundering charges.

In May 2021, Collins-Muhammad discussed plans to approve a construction permit for Almuttan's gas station.

"DON'T START CONSTRUCTION UNTIL THIS PASSES! Otherwise taxes are going to be high," Collins-Muhammad warned Almuttan in a text message quoted in the indictment.

"You're gonna end up paying 26, $27,000," he told him.

Almuttan responds, "30,000 times 10 years, that's a lot of money."

"Here 's $1,000, get it done," Almuttan offers. "I'll have a nice package for you."

On June 29, Collins-Muhammad signaled the clearances were moving through the Board of Alderman and assured Almuttan that he could "start construction."

The indictment quoted the following alleged conversation:

"How is the vehicle," Almuttan asked.

"Perfect," Collins-Muhammad responded.

"Keep using it until we get this thing going, you know, get the Tax Abatement going, then whatever you need," Almuttan told the alderman.

"Start digging," Collins-Muhammad responded. "Like go, man. You got the, you got the green light."

Mayor Tishaura Jone provided a statement following the guilty plea:

"When politicians break the law to serve themselves instead of the people they were elected to serve, everyone loses. In a conversation detailed in his indictment, former alderman John Collins-Muhammad notes that “I’m on Tishaura’s shit list, and she’s on mine too.” While that’s one list I’m proud to be on, the former alderman’s actions outlined in his federal indictment have embarrassed St. Louis and our city government. The federal corruption charges against Lewis Reed, John Collins-Muhammad, and Jeffrey Boyd have further shaken the faith St. Louisans have in their government.

"It’s time to turn the page on the past and move on from the failed status quo. I am ready to work with the Board of Aldermen in the coming legislative session to help rebuild trust by enacting development incentive reform that improves transparency, promotes community involvement, and eliminates conflicts of interest.

"I am praying for Collins-Muhammad as well as his loved ones, who are suffering through no fault of their own."

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