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By Cliff Froehlich
Darran Kelley, the chief of the Kinloch Fire Protection District, was arrested yesterday and charged with three felony counts of wire fraud, one felony count of federal program theft and one felony count of making false statements.
According to prosecutors, the 47-year-old Kelley siphoned off $140,000 from the city to pay personal expenses and fund his gambling. He also stands accused of keeping his $15,000-a-year job as fire chief a secret from the federal government in order to continue receiving disability payments for a medical injury.
In 2010 Kelley accompanied Daily RFT on a video tour of the impoverished town of Kinloch that boasts of being the first African-American community west of the Mississippi River. It's also the poorest of the 91 municipalities in St. Louis County and sits largely vacant thanks to an airport expansion plan that bought out most homeowners.
Back in 2010 Kelley blamed St. Louis County officials for turning their backs on Kinloch after residents complained about economic and social injustices.
"And that's when they said, 'Okay. We gonna kick these negroes in the ass every chance we get,'" said Kelley. "And I'll be damned if they didn't hold up to their word."
- Kinloch Fire Protection District in Dispute With St. Louis County Over TIF Funding
- Disgraced Kinloch Mayor Keith Conway Pleads Guilty to Three Charges
- Former Kinloch Mayor Keith Conway Sentenced to 21 Months in Prison
Prior to that 2010 interview with Daily RFT, Kelley had placed an ad in Craigslist asking the public to assist in rehabilitating the city's crumbling firehouse. A few folks stepped up, but the building -- like the rest of the city -- remained in shambles.
In the indictment unveiled yesterday, federal prosecutors maintain that Kelley took advantage of public generosity in a 2011 episode when the fire district made headlines for not being able to pay its insurance premium of $2,300 for a new fire engine. Donations from the public came pouring in, and Kelley allegedly used the money to pay the insurer and himself -- with the leftover contributions spent on personal items and casinos.
Continue on to read more charges as spelled out by the U.S. Attorney's Office.