ST. LOUIS – A former St. Louis County employee pleaded guilty Friday to criminal charges stemming from a kickback scheme involving COVID-19 pandemic relief funds.
Anthony “Tony” Weaver Sr. admitted guilt to four felony counts of wire fraud. Federal prosecutors say Weaver went to a person who operated several small businesses in the county and offered to fraudulently apply for CARES Act money on their behalf. In exchange, the business owner would offer Weaver a share of the proceeds.
Weaver was indicted in the scheme on June 7. The CARES Act was used to fund the county’s Small Business Relief program, with the goal of paying some of the costs businesses incurred amid stay-at-home orders during part of the COVID pandemic.
According to the recently unsealed indictment, Weaver was working as an administrative assistant to former St. Louis County Councilwoman Rochelle Walton Gray. She’s referred to as “Jane Doe” in the indictment. On May 6, 2020, Weaver went to the businessman, identified only as “John Smith,” to pitch the plan.
Over the next few weeks, Weaver allegedly filled out four SBR loans on behalf of John Smith’s businesses. Weaver lied on the applications, claiming the businesses had been closed during the pandemic. He also hid the fact that Smith had a 25% ownership stake in all of the businesses. The rules of the loans stipulated a business owner could only apply for one grant.
The indictment further alleges the pair agreed to split any money, and that Weaver advised Smith on how to pay him his share. The indictment also shows how Weaver planned to leverage his former job with the county to ensure the grant applications got approved. Referencing Walton Gray’s office, Weaver allegedly said, “They’re going to do what I tell them to do.”
Weaver was also concerned that he was being watched or surveilled around this time, according to the indictment.
Weaver, who was previously employed as a change management coordinator with the St. Louis County Jail, faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000 on each count of wire fraud. He is expected to be sentenced on Jan. 25, 2023.
The scandal is one of two this year under the leadership of St. Louis County Executive Sam Page. In June, Page’s former chief of staff Calvin Harris resigned over a sex tape.