ST. LOUIS – A former St. Louis County employee was sentenced Thursday for running a scheme to steal federal pandemic relief funds.
Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Missouri said Anthony “Tony” Weaver Sr. pleaded guilty in October 2022 to four counts of wire fraud. A U.S. District Court judge sentenced Weaver to 18 months in federal prison.
Weaver worked as an administrative assistant for former St. Louis County Councilwoman Rochelle Walton Gray, and was then appointed to be the “change management coordinator” at the St. Louis County Justice Center, a position he held until his indictment in May 2022.
In May 2020, 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, identified only as “John Smith,” would give Weaver a share of those proceeds.
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-19 pandemic.
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 the businesses. The rules of the loans stipulated a business owner could only apply for one grant.
Prosecutors claimed 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 said, “They’re going to do what I tell them to do.”
During a recorded conversation on June 1, 2020, Weaver can be heard telling the anonymous businessman, “All we have to do is apply for them because my people are inside, work their magic and do what they need to do.”
Weaver also promised his partner, “when Sam Page’s term is over, we’ll all be millionaires and won’t have to worry about anything at all…”
Weaver was also concerned that he was being watched or surveilled around this time, according to the indictment.
“They’re trying to get me on something, brother. I’m too powerful, brother…,” he’s quoted as telling Smith. “I hope this place is not bugged … that’s how (former St. Louis County Executive Steve) Stenger got caught.”
Ultimately, Smith’s four applications were not approved. Weaver said he would try again with the next round of funding.
Weaver was indicted in June 2022 on four counts of wire fraud. He pleaded guilty to all four charges on Oct. 21, 2022.