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'I drank a fifth of tequila every day': Former alderman Boyd says he doesn't remember taking first bribe

Jeffrey Boyd will report to prison in Texas Tuesday to begin serving a 36-month sentence.

ST. LOUIS — Starting Tuesday, Jeffrey Boyd will be known mostly as a number.

It will come from the federal Bureau of Prisons, and be used to identify him for the next 36 months.

For the past 19 years, Boyd has been known as the alderman of St. Louis’ 22nd Ward. It’s a slice of north St. Louis where vacant buildings and lots dominate much of the landscape, but patches of new developments Boyd takes pride and credit in also dot the landscape.

And it’s those accomplishments he wants people to remember him for, not the actions that earned him inmate number 04184-510.

“I always told myself I would never be the type of politician that will hustle people,” he told the I-Team in an exclusive interview. “Now, I sit here today looking like a corrupt politician.”

“Somebody I despise that I said would never be me.”

Boyd pleaded guilty to federal bribery and fraud charges that also took down three other St. Louis area politicians, including two of Boyd’s fellow St. Louis aldermen. All admitted to engaging in crimes with the same man, who turned into an FBI informant following his own indictment for manufacturing synthetic cigarettes, drugs and money laundering.

Former Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed did not return the I-Team’s phone calls seeking comment.

Reed is now at a prison in Forrest City, Arkansas.

Former Alderman John Collins-Muhammad declined a request for an interview through his attorney. He’s now at a facility in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Former St. Louis County Executive Sam Page appointee, Tony Weaver, is expected to be sentenced this week.

Boyd is headed to a minimum security penitentiary in Texarkana, Texas.

Boyd sat down with the I-Team, saying he wanted to explain his actions to the public he once served, and insists his dealings with the FBI informant were not a quid pro quo.

“I've never run away from a reporter,” he said. “I can choose not to talk. But when I do talk, I will give it to you straight.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office sent the I-Team a statement, stating Boyd illegally accepted cash from the informant multiple times.

"If Mr. Boyd is now saying that there was not a quid pro quo agreement with the business owner 'John Doe,' or that a public official accepting cash and other items of value in exchange for performing his official duties is not a crime, that is directly contradicted by what he said under oath at his guilty plea in August," according to the statement.

It continued: "At his sentencing hearing in December, Mr. Boyd reiterated that he was, in fact, guilty of his crimes. He should not now be heard in any credible fashion to deny those crimes."

Watch the full interview with Boyd below.

What were you thinking?

If ever anyone approached Boyd about doing a development in his ward, he said he was all ears.

“Look around,” he said, pointing out the second-floor window at a redevelopment of his own along Martin Luther King Dr. “This community needs development, it deserves development.”

He named his business The Best Place, a play on another business down the street called The Other Place.

It was once a dilapidated two-story commercial building whose glory days were long gone.

Boyd turned the first floor into a banquet hall. A bar that seats about 10 people comfortably across the front is coated in multiple layers of lacquer that make it hard to believe it’s made of plywood. The second floor is still a work in progress, but Boyd has already installed a stage, a pool table, darts, lighting and hardwood floors.

The building he owns next door is an up-and-coming medical marijuana dispensary.

He smiled as he remembered getting “dinged” in the media for getting a $40,000 grant to restore the façade of the building.

“Why shouldn’t I get money to restore this building?” he asked.

He also points to the decorative street lights he can also see from those windows, and remembers a reporter criticizing him for bringing them to his ward, too.

“Why shouldn’t we have lights like that?” he asked. “This community deserves to have nice street lights just as much as communities like Ladue and Chesterfield.”

That’s why in July of 2020, when fellow alderman Collins-Muhammad introduced him to another businessman interested in building in Boyd’s ward, he said he jumped at the chance.

“If you want to do work in my ward, I'm going to be a champion for you as an alderman,” Boyd said. “If I can help you get a piece of property for a dollar, that is what I'm charged to do, because my community will benefit from that.

“Not Jeffrey Boyd, but my community.”

Dealing with demons

Boyd said he was also dealing with some demons at the time.

Not long before that, there were six murders in six days in Boyd’s ward.

He said a woman came up to him at one of the scenes and blamed him for the crime, telling him he had done nothing for the community other than letting it rot.

He said he began seeing the faces of everyone in his community telling him they had let him down.

And he said he thought about killing the woman to make it stop.

He started seeing a therapist, where he said another trauma resurfaced.

“In the course of the therapy, a revelation was exposed about something…Something that happened to me when I was 19 years old in the military that I just never talked about,” said Boyd, who also served 23 years in the military.

He said he was diagnosed with PTSD, and declared 70% medically disabled by the military.

That was as much as Boyd would say about the issue, adding only that he started abusing alcohol to self-medicate.

“I drank a fifth of tequila every day,” he said. “Every day.”

He said he was often under the influence when he met with Mohammed Almuttan, the businessman Collins-Muhammad introduced him to who doubled as a government mole. In court documents, the U.S. Attorney's Office refers to Almuttan as John Doe, but multiple sources and Boyd have identified Almuttan as the informant.

“I was in pain, mentally, I was not thinking enough about what was going on around me because of what is going on inside of me,” he said.

Collins-Muhammad got a kickback from Almuttan just to introduce him to Boyd, something Boyd said he didn’t know until he read it in the indictment.

“I didn't know anything about John getting paid to bring him to me,” Boyd said. 

Collins-Muhammad also told Almuttan that Boyd was the type of politician Boyd despised, the type of politician who wouldn’t do anything for free, according to court documents.

Boyd denied ever taking money from someone interested in working in his ward.

“I have had meetings with people and they have said, ‘Man I just think you're a great guy and if you can just help me out with this,’” Boyd said, pretending to slide a bribe across the table. “And I would be like, ‘No, I’d be more than happy to help you. You don't have to do that. I'll do whatever you want me to do.”

Boyd admitted in his plea agreement that he accepted $2,500 in cash from Almuttan the first time he met him.

“I was not in the right frame of mind,” Boyd said. “All they have on that is John Collins-Muhammad saying I took that money from him that first time, but I do not remember doing that.”

In a statement, the U.S. Attorney's Office fired back: "The first time he met John Doe, a total stranger, (Boyd) took $2,500 cash."

Federal prosecutors say after Boyd took that cash, he contacted city officials and directed them to lower the price of the property Almuttan was interested in to $14,000 from $50,000.

“There was nothing nefarious in that,” Boyd said. “If you interview every alderman on the Board of Aldermen, they will say, ‘Yeah, we write letters of support all the time.’”

But Boyd admits it isn’t right to accept cash before or after doing so.

And he insists he didn’t ask Almuttan for money.

“I was thinking he's just helping me out with the car business and just being nice,” Boyd said. “You know, I never thought that it was like a bribe.”

Wads of cash

Boyd admits accepting the money on the occasions the feds recorded him doing so on hidden cameras planted at Almuttan’s office.

The first time Boyd said he remembers it happened, he didn’t accept the money immediately.

“He went to hand me some money and I was like, ‘Oh, no, you ain't got to worry about that,” Boyd said. “I didn't need his money, and I didn't want him to think I was that type of guy that you got to pay me to do anything.

“I have never in my life asked any constituent, any developer, anybody for money to do my job. I keep telling everybody, ‘I never asked for anything. I didn't want it.’ They say, ‘Yeah, Jeffrey, we know, but you took the money.’”

Boyd said he felt pressured to take the money.

“I kind of felt like I was insulting him if I didn't, because he kept saying, ‘No, no, no, it's OK, it's OK,’” Boyd recalled.

The I-Team obtained clips from the FBI surveillance video of Boyd accepting cash from Boyd.

It showed Boyd initially balk at a stack of cash before putting it in his pocket.

The wads of cash Almuttan gave Boyd totaled about $9,500, according to court documents.

In its statement, the U.S. Attorney's Office noted the informant told Boyd why he was giving him cash. 

"On one occasion, after handing Mr. Boyd $1,500 cash, Doe said, 'That's for, you know, the tax abatement. That's a lot of savings on that.' After handing Mr. Boyd $2,500 on another occasion, Doe said, 'You know, and what you did for me it's, you saved me a lot of money, my brother ... Here's 25 ($2,500).' 

"Mr. Boyd never declined the cash bribes, never reported the bribes as campaign contributions, never reported them on his tax returns and didn’t deposit them into a bank account," according to the statement.

Boyd said his business relationship with Almuttan progressed.

Soon, Boyd started committing insurance fraud, filing claims for damaged vehicles that Almuttan had fixed for him for free.

“I own that, I own that,” Boyd said. “I just wasn’t thinking and I’m sorry for that.”

The feds also counted work Almuttan did on Boyd’s cars for free toward the value of the total amount Boyd accepted illegally.

"In exchange for using his official position to get the city to lower the sale price of the property, Mr. Boyd admitted being paid a total of $5,500 by Doe, as well as free car repairs," according to the statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office. "Mr. Boyd then accepted more cash bribes to sponsor an Aldermanic Board Bill which provided a 10-year tax abatement for Doe’s property, which would have cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. In return, Mr. Boyd accepted a series of cash bribes."

The judge who sentenced Boyd doubled that amount to calculate Boyd’s $23,000 fine.

What’s ahead

Boyd said he regrets taking the cash from Almuttan, but still doesn’t see it as a quid pro quo.

“It was wrong, and I regret it, but it was not intentional,” he said. “I never asked that man for a dime.

“And had I been in my right frame of mind, it just would have never happened.”

He said he never knew about the involvement his fellow aldermen had with Almuttan. 

“John and Louis surprised me in all of this, especially Lewis," he said. “On the day we were indicted, I had no clue. 

"And then I read and it says I was part of a criminal enterprise. How? There is no audio — and I challenge the government to prove me wrong — of me, Lewis and John in a room talking about how to hustle somebody. It doesn't exist.”

Boyd tears up when he starts thinking of the people he knows he let down – his constituents, his wife, who he calls “St. Patrice,” his children and his mother.

“I’ve always wanted to make my mother proud,” he said. “And I let her down.”

He also thinks of all the faces in his ward.

“I've done right by a lot of people and a lot of people have been good to me,” he said. “I've let a lot of people down being hoodwinked by a criminal, by somebody who should be in jail today, but is walking the streets and allowed to live his life.”

In exchange for his cooperation with the feds, some of the charges against Almuttan have been dropped.

“This guy was prepared to build a factory, basically to produce synthetic marijuana poison and sell it to Black people,” Boyd said. “And he was indicted in May of 2017, and our government has allowed him to walk the streets.

“Why was he even allowed to buy property after that?”

Almuttan was sentenced to four years in prison for his role in the 2017 conspiracy, but he has not yet reported to the Bureau of Prisons.

As for whether Boyd will try to make another run at St. Louis politics, he left the door open.

He said the bribery scandal ended what he planned to be his last term as an alderman early.

“Please don't forget all the good things I did for my community,” he said. “And don't allow this to define who I am in your mind.

“All I can promise everybody is when this is behind me, I will do better and I’ll be better.”

For now though, he’s just another number in the federal prison system.

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