ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – The St. Louis mayor isn’t the only local government leader reacting to a federal indictment of a public official in the local government. On Wednesday, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page addressed an investigation into a county employee accused in a kickback scheme involving pandemic relief funds.
Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Missouri said Anthony “Tony” Weaver Sr. 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 give Weaver a share of the 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 pandemic. Weaver was charged on May 25 with four counts of wire fraud. He has since turned himself over to federal custody.
Page noted Tuesday that “the attempt to defraud county government failed.” Upon learning about federal charges, Page said Weaver was terminated from his position immediately.
“That sort of behavior is never allowed [and] that sort of behavior will never be tolerated in county government,” Page said.
Page said the federal investigation in the county is connected to the same John Doe that led to fraud indictments against St. Louis aldermen.
When pandemic relief funds first became available, the county hired a law firm to design a form for application, one accounting firm to review each application, and another accounting firm to audit expenditures. Page said the county initially received criticism for hiring two accounting firms in the process but they played a big factor in the employee being caught.
“Somehow, we were supposed to move millions of dollars through St. Louis County with a normal infrastructure,” he said. “That wasn’t possible. I’m glad we [hired the firms] and I hope folks will take a deeper look into those policies and procedures in place.”
Page said St. Louis County will cooperate with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office amid the investigation into Weaver and the kickback scheme. The agencies are also investigating whether other laws were broken in the process. Two accounting firms reviewed $17 million in applications under Weaver, but Page does not believe that any money was given inappropriately.
“From time to time, in government, people will try to steal,” Page said. “We will try to set up providers to prevent that as we did here.”
The county executive said he would support anything from the county council to double-check the work of the law firm. He noted additional auditors will cost the county more money.
Page also addressed St. Louis County’s COVID-19 spike during a news conference Tuesday. As of Monday, St. Louis County hospitals are treating 201 virus patients with a rolling seven-day average of 43 new admissions
St. Louis City and County have returned to the COVID-19 “Red” level, according to CDC standards. The CDC recommends wearing a mask in public indoor spaces and on public transportation, staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations, and getting tested when exhibiting symptoms. Those at high-risk for contracting the virus should consider taking additional precautions.
“The load of COVID in our community is too much, and [health officials] are asking us for help to slow down the spread.”
The St. Louis County Department of Public Health issued an advisory Tuesday recommending masking in public, regardless of vaccination status. However, Page does not expect a mask mandate to return.