ST. LOUIS – A former St. Louis County, Missouri employee on Friday admitted hatching a scheme to fraudulently obtain COVID-19 relief funds in exchange for kickbacks.
Anthony “Tony” Weaver Sr. pleaded guilty in front of U.S. District Court Judge Stephen R. Clark to four felony counts of wire fraud. Weaver was the “change management coordinator” at the St. Louis County jail at the time of his indictment in May and previously served as the administrative assistant to a former St. Louis County Council member.
Weaver admitted approaching a man who owned several small businesses in St. Louis County
with a scheme to fraudulently apply for grants from the county’s Small Business Relief (SBR) Program, shortly after that program began in May of 2020. The program used federal CARES Act money to help small businesses deal with the cost of closures due to pandemic-related stay-at-home orders.
Weaver approached the businessman, identified in court as “John Smith,” on May 6, 2020 and said his former boss on the council, identified as “Jane Doe,” needed to know the names of Smith’s businesses so she could approve them for a grant. Weaver said he would fill out applications for the maximum grant of $15,000 for each of Smith’s six businesses, adding that Doe’s office is “going to do what I tell them to do.”
Weaver then filled out the applications, falsely claiming that the businesses were closed and had to lay off employees during the pandemic. Weaver concealed the fact that Smith had at least 25% ownership in all six businesses because an owner was only allowed to apply for one grant. Weaver also promised on multiple occasions to split any resulting grants with Smith. Weaver discussed ways to conceal the fact that he was filling out the applications to prevent discovery of the scheme and any resulting kickbacks from Smith.
Weaver ultimately failed to obtain any fraudulent grants for Smith, but told Smith he’d been paid $300 as a kickback for obtaining a grant for someone else.
Weaver is scheduled to be sentenced January 25, 2023. Each wire fraud charge carries a potential penalty of up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal Goldsmith is prosecuting the case.