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Former Kinloch mayor Darren Small and his wife Jayna Small have pleaded guilty to charges related to the theft of funds.
Two former top Kinloch officials, who happen to be married, have pleaded guilty to charges connected to the theft of funds from Kinloch's Fire Protection District.
Darren Small, 51, served as Kinloch's mayor and chief of its fire district, while Jayna Small, 40, was the president of the fire district's board of directors — that is, until federal charges were filed against them in March
. The couple, who had access to the district's MasterCard debit card and checkbook, were accused of treating fire district funds as their personal bank account since December 2013.
The U.S. Department of Justice says the couple used district funds to pay personal utility bills and to purchase clothing, food, liquor and cigarettes. Jayna Small also admitted to writing a check from the fire district's account to pay for funeral expenses for a relative, totaling $7,200. That check had "Cash Payment 4 Utility Vehicle" written on its memo line, though that is not where the money went.
In an appearance today before U.S. District Judge Catherine D. Perry, Darren Small pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit access device fraud and one count of access device fraud. Jayna Small pleaded guilty before Judge Perry on July 24 to one count of conspiracy to commit access device fraud and one count of interstate transportation of money obtained by fraud.
The charge of conspiracy to commit access device fraud carries with it a maximum penalty of five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000. The charges of access device fraud and interstate transportation of money obtained by fraud each bring a maximum penalty of ten years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000.
Darren Small became fire chief after his predecessor, Darran Kelley, pleaded guilty to federal charges in 2013 after he was caught embezzling $140,000 from the district
. He was also collecting disability checks for a bogus ailment. And the former mayor, too, was sentenced to prison for fraud and embezzlement: Keith Conway, who was mayor from 1999 to 2011, was accused of using city funds to pay for cruises to the Bahamas and vacations to Las Vegas. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison in 2011
Darren Small presented himself as a reformer who would help turn the ailing district around. "It hurts," he told the Post-Dispatch after his predecessor's arrest
. "The only thing you can try to do is correct things and move forward."
Darren Small is scheduled to be sentenced on October 25; Jayna Small's sentencing is set for October 17.