Alderman Larry Arnowitz is under federal investigation for fraud.
Larry Arnowitz has been formally indicted a day after he resigned from the St. Louis Board of Aldermen
to deal with a fraud investigation.
Arnowitz, 66, illegally used campaign donations to pay his personal bills, including his mortgage, according the indictment unsealed today in federal court.
An FBI investigation found the south city Democrat withdrew money from his campaign account at different times between June 2015 and February 2019. One example cited in the indictment was a $5,000 cashier's check written from the Friends of Larry Arnowitz campaign account. Arnowitz mailed the check to Ocwen Financial Services as part of his mortgage payment, authorities say.
He is accused of then covering up the illicit withdrawals by filing false documents with the Missouri Ethics Commission. Arnowitz was charged with one count of federal mail fraud.
“Alderman Arnowitz abused the trust of many individuals and organizations that contributed to his political campaign fund for several years," U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen said in a statement. "This type of corruption by our elected officials will not be tolerated, and federal law enforcement will continue to investigate and prosecute these types of criminal schemes in order to insure the integrity of our political processes.”
In interviews with St. Louis media on Tuesday, Arnowitz's attorney Patrick Conroy said the now-former alderman made a "mistake" and that the money in question totaled about $20,000.
Arnowitz, who was first elected to represent the Twelfth Ward in 2011, could face as many as twenty years in federal prison if found guilty, although Conroy told reporters he hoped to work out a resolution that would involve repaying the money. Restitution would be mandatory under the law.
"Rooting out public corruption is a top priority for the FBI because of the abuse of public trust," Special Agent in Charge Richard Quinn of the FBI St. Louis Division said in a statement. "When citizens donate money to an election campaign, they are supporting a candidate to represent them, not to pay for their personal expenses."
The prosecution is being led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal Goldsmith, who prosecuted former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, who is in federal prison after pleading guilty last year to fraud
in a pay-for-play scheme.
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