ST. LOUIS — A former high-level political appointee of St. Louis County Executive Sam Page is expected to plead guilty to federal corruption charges involving a COVID-19 relief funds fraud scheme.
Tony Weaver, who Page appointed as the Change Management Coordinator at the St. Louis County Justice Services Center in January 2020, was indicted along with three St. Louis aldermen after an FBI informant wore a wire capturing them involved in a series of alleged corruption schemes.
Page fired Weaver after his May indictment, to which he pleaded not guilty.
Weaver scheduled a change of plea hearing for Oct. 21.
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.
He was indicted on May 25 on four felony counts of wire fraud.
One week before his indictment, three St. Louis city politicians turned themselves into federal authorities on bribery and corruption charges.
All have changed their pleas as well to guilty and are awaiting sentencing.
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 of 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 at the time. "And the indictments are not related to work he was doing for the county executive in Justice Services.”
Wire fraud charges have a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.