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St. Louis County employee charged in federal COVID relief kickback scheme, fired from position

Tony Weaver was terminated from his position as St. Louis County Justice Services Center change management coordinator after being charged with federal wire fraud.

ST. LOUIS — A high-level political appointee of St. Louis County Executive Sam Page has been indicted and turned himself in to federal authorities after being accused in a COVID-19 relief funds fraud scheme.

A news release emailed Tuesday morning details the federal indictment against Tony Weaver, who was appointed by Page as the Change Management Coordinator at the St. Louis County Justice Services Center in January 2020.

Page fired Weaver Tuesday.

"That sort of behavior will never be tolerated in county government," the county executive said during a briefing Wednesday.

Weaver is accused of participating in a scheme to get COVID-19 relief funds for a local businessman in exchange for a share of the money, according to the federal indictment.

He was indicted on May 25 on four felony counts of wire fraud.

The news comes less than a week after three St. Louis city politicians turned themselves in to federal authorities on bribery and corruption charges. When asked whether the same informant is behind the federal charges in the city and the county, Page said more will be revealed as the investigation unfolds.

"But they do seem to be the same person who was working in the City of St. Louis to try and gain improper access and defraud the City of St. Louis and was trying to do the same thing in St. Louis County," Page stated.

READ ALSO: Cash, cell phones and car repairs: Feds allege city aldermen took bribes for developer tax breaks

The indictment accuses Weaver of trying to put together a kickback scheme beginning May 6, 2020.

Prosecutors said he talked with a man, identified as “John Smith,” who owned several small businesses in St. Louis County about helping him apply for grants from the county’s Small Business Relief (SBR) Program. The program used federal CARES Act money and was meant to help businesses that had to shut down during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic.

Weaver filled out four loan applications for Smith’s businesses and lied about them being closed during the pandemic, prosecutors said. And they agreed on multiple occasions to split any money they received, the indictment states.

In conversations with the businessman, Weaver expressed fear in getting caught. The indictment states he told Smith not to use checks or political donations, and that he didn’t want to use his own cell phone to submit the applications because county employees might find out.

“They’re trying to get me on something, brother. I’m too powerful, brother…,” the indictment quotes Weaver telling Smith. He also said, “I hope this place is not bugged… that’s how (former St. Louis County Executive Steve) Stenger got caught,” the indictment said.

The relief fund applications weren’t approved.

"As the indictment states, the controls put in place by Dr. Page’s administration for the distribution of federal funds prevented any theft of taxpayer funds," Page spokesman Doug Moore said in an emailed statement to 5 On Your Side. "And the indictments are not related to work he was doing for the county executive in Justice Services.”

Page was asked about the fraud accusations Wednesday morning. He said he was happy to hear the processes put in place prevented false applications for businesses from getting through. 

He said the county will continue to cooperate with the federal investigation.

Wire fraud charges have a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Credit: St. Louis American
Tony Weaver

Weaver served as the legislative aide to former St. Louis County Councilwoman and Page ally Rochelle Walton Gray.

Page appointed Weaver to the jail position on Jan. 7, 2020 – two days after Walton Gray voted to keep Page ally Councilwoman Lisa Clancy as chairwoman over Councilwoman Rita Days. However, when she voted for Clancy her term had already expired. A court later determined Days was the chair of the county council and Walton Gray should not have voted after her term ended.

Page then appointed Walton Gray as the county’s vaccine coordinator in the Department of Public Health with an annual salary of about $90,000 and sent Weaver to serve at the jail.

Page recently made a move to keep Weaver intact at the jail after voters passed a charter amendment requiring all political appointees to be paid through the county executive’s budget instead of attributing salaries to county departments.

The county’s budget director gave the county council a list of all employees whose salaries would have to be reallocated to the county executive’s budget following the April 5 election. Weaver’s salary was listed as $77,000.

Walton Gray could not keep her job following the amendment because of a ban on county officials taking county government jobs two years after their term ends.

As the Change Management Coordinator at the St. Louis County Justice Services Center, Weaver was in charge of being the "communication link" between families, inmates and corrections officers, Page explained.

Weaver also was a longtime committeeman of the Spanish Lake Township and served on the board of Unity PAC, which is a north county political organization.

You can read the full indictment in the document below or by clicking here.

This is a developing story that will continue to be updated.

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