Keith Conway, Kinloch's longtime mayor, faces one felony count each of wire fraud and federal program theft.
Keith Conway, the mayor of the north St. Louis County municipality of Kinloch
, has been indicted on charges of theft and wire fraud.
Conway, 47, allegedly used funds from the struggling municipality to finance cruises to the Bahamas, travel to Las Vegas and Ft. Lauderdale, credit-card bills and payments on a time-share in Florida. Unbelievably, Conway was audacious enough to use the taxpayer dough to pay his personal federal income taxes, too.
The indictment was announced by the U.S. Attorney's Office in a press release this morning. The case was investigated by the FBI, the St. Louis County Police Department, the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Labor and the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Justice.
If convicted, Conway could face as many as 30 years in prison (20 years for wire fraud, plus 10 for "federal program" theft), plus fines as high as $500,000.
Conway's alleged embezzlement is only the latest crisis to confront Kinloch, which is home to one of Missouri's oldest African American communities. Once a thriving muncipality, Kinloch has lost more and more of its land to Lambert-St. Louis International Airport; between 1990 and 2000, the city lost more than 75 percent of its population. It's currently home to fewer than 1,000 residents.
Keegan Hamilton's 2009 story about problems facing the Kinloch Police Department
has some valuable background. At the time, Hamilton reported, Kinloch's annual budget was just $600,000 -- which presumably made all those vacation expenses pretty easy to spot.
Hamilton also had this to say about the city:
With a population of about 430 residents, 80 percent of whom live
below the poverty line, Kinloch is statistically the poorest of the
county's 91 municipalities.
Kinloch was founded in the early twentieth century as the first all
African American city in Missouri. In the 1960s it was home to more than
10,000 people. Then, starting in the late 1980s, the airport bought
approximately 215 acres of city land and more than 1,300 properties for a
runway expansion. After the buyouts displaced residents and stripped
the city of its tax base, Kinloch was left to wither.
Today, piles of concrete rubble, junk-strewn vacant lots and burnt-out buildings give the city the feel of a war zone.
Sadly, we've seen this all too often in our decade-plus of reporting: This kind of corruption always seems to happen in the places that can least afford it.
For more on Kinloch's tragic history, see this all-too-sad story from 2000