ST. LOUIS – A St. Louis County employee who previously served as the administrative assistant to a former St. Louis County Council member hatched a scheme to fraudulently obtain COVID-19 relief funds for a local businessman in exchange for a share of the proceeds, an indictment unsealed Tuesday alleges.
Anthony “Tony” Weaver Sr., who is currently employed as the “change management coordinator” at the St. Louis County jail, was indicted May 25 on four felony counts of wire fraud. Weaver has turned himself in and is scheduled to make his first appearance in court Tuesday at 1 p.m.
The indictment alleges that on May 6, 2020, Weaver approached a man who owned several small businesses located in St. Louis County with a scheme to fraudulently apply for grants from the county’s Small Business Relief (SBR) Program. The program used federal CARES Act money to help small businesses located in the county that were closed during the stay-at-home orders by paying some of the costs incurred by the closing.
According to the indictment, Weaver told the businessman, identified in the indictment as “John Smith,” that his former boss on the council, identified as “Jane Doe,” needed to know the names of Smith’s businesses as she made the final decision. Weaver also told Smith that Doe’s office is “going to do what I tell them to do.”
Over the next few weeks, Weaver filled out applications for four SBR loans on behalf of Smith’s businesses, falsely claiming that the businesses were closed during the pandemic, and concealing the fact that Smith had at least 25% ownership in them all because an owner could only apply for one grant, the indictment alleges.
The pair agreed on multiple occasions to split any resulting money, the indictment says. They also discussed ways to avoid getting caught, with Weaver warning Smith against using a check or political donations to pay kickbacks and telling Smith that he didn’t want to use his own cell phone to submit an application because county employees might find out, the indictment says. “They’re trying to get me on something, brother. I’m too powerful, brother…,” the indictment quotes Weaver telling Smith. Weaver also said, “I hope this place is not bugged…that’s how (former St. Louis County Executive Steve) Stenger got caught,” the indictment says.
Smith’s applications were not approved, but Weaver said he could try again with the next round of funding, the indictment alleges.
According to the indictment, Weaver said he helped 10 other companies apply for grants, but only two agreed to kick back any money and only one grant was approved. Weaver told Smith that he received $300 for his help in that case.
Weaver also served as the longtime committeeman of the Spanish Lake Township and on the board of Unity PAC, a north St. Louis County political organization, the indictment says.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal Goldsmith is prosecuting the case.
The wire fraud charge carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and Weaver is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.