ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Another day, another local political figure indicted on federal corruption charges. This time, a federal indictment alleges a St. Louis County employee organized 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 turned himself over to federal custody.
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.
“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.
Prosecutors say Weaver claimed to have helped 10 other companies apply for grants; only two agreed to give him any kickbacks and just one grant was approved. Weaver claimed to have received $300 for his help.
Weaver, who is currently 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.
FOX 2 called Tony Weaver Sr. on Tuesday to ask bout these allegations. We’ve not yet heard back from him. We also contacted St. Louis County Executive Sam Page’s office. In a statement, a spokesperson said: “Tony Weaver was fired today by the county executive. As the indictment states, the controls put in place by Dr. Page’s administration for the distribution of federal funds prevented any theft of taxpayer funds, and the indictments are not related to work he was doing for the county executive in Justice Services.”