Mokwa Escapes Indictment as Former Cop, Manager of Towing Firm Charged with Fraud

Gregory P. Shepard, a former St. Louis police officer, was indicted on charges of fraud and bribery yesterday involving his operation of the S & H Parking Systems that toppled the administration of former police Chief Joe Mokwa.

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S&H headquarters at N. 10th and O'Fallon streets just north of downtown.

Shepard served as the general operations manager for S&H Parking Systems and its affiliated businesses, located at 1325 North 10th Street, St. Louis.  S & H Parking Systems is affiliated with St. Louis Metropolitan Towing and Parks Auto Sales, at the same location and has a contract with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to tow vehicles designated by the department. Parks Auto Sales titles and sells a large number of vehicles towed by St. Louis Metropolitan Towing.

Mokwa resigned last summer after a Post-Dispatch investigation discovered that S & H loaned impounded cars to the chief's daughter, Aimie Mokwa, and members of the police department for free. 

The indictment alleges that between approximately October 2004 and August 2008, Shepard  -- a former detective who resigned form the St. Louis police department in 1999 -- devised a scheme to defraud vehicle owners, lien holders and purchasers of vehicles towed by St. Louis Metropolitan Towing and affiliated businesses. Despite representations made to the Missouri Department of Revenue, Shepard and others gave no notice, or delayed notice, to vehicle owners and/or lien holders of vehicles towed by St. Louis Metropolitan Towing.

On other occasions, Shepard falsely told vehicle owners or lien holders that vehicles were no longer held by St. Louis Metropolitan Towing or its affiliated companies when the vehicles were actually still being held by St. Louis Metropolitan Towing or its affiliated companies. On many occasions, Shepard allegedly made false statements to titled owners of towed vehicles which resulted in artificially inflated storage fees.

According to the indictment, an employee from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department passed vehicles for inspection despite obvious flaws.  Shepard made many cash payments to the employee of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department for conducting these faulty inspections.

In addition, according to the indictment, between approximately October 2004 and August 2008, Shepard defrauded Avis/Budget Group by fraudulently inflating mileage on rental cars towed by St. Louis Metropolitan Towing

The indictment also charges that Shepard, being a Member of the Board of the St. Louis Policemen's Credit Union, notarized a Bill of Sale showing that a vehicle repossessed earlier from a St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department officer was being purchased from the St. Louis Policemen's Credit Union by an independent third party known as Grant Auto Sales.  The vehicle was actually purchased by Parks Auto Sales for $1,400, resold by Parks Auto Sales for $3,100, and the profit of $1,700 was never returned to the St. Louis Policemen's Credit Union.

Shepard, 52, was indicted by a federal grand jury one seven felony counts of mail fraud, two felony counts of bribery involving federal programs, one felony count of wire fraud, and one felony count of making false entries.

If convicted, mail fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000; bribery carries a maximum penalty of ten years prison and/or fines up to $250,000; wire fraud carries a maximum of 20 years prison and/or fines up to $250,000; and false entries carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and/or fines up to $1,000,000.

U.S. Attorney Michael Reap commended the work on the case by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, Postal Inspection Service; and Assistant United States Attorney's Jeffrey Jensen and Hal Goldsmith, who are handling the case for the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations, and each defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

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