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St. Louis Parks Officials Indicted on Fraud Charges, Allegedly Embezzled Funds For Years

Categories: Crime, News

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Update below: Two St. Louis parks officials allegedly stole around half a million dollars from the city by submitting false invoices since 2005, according to a federal indictment announced this morning.

Joseph Vacca, deputy commissioner of the St. Louis Parks Division, and Thomas Stritzel, chief of the St. Louis park rangers, are "expected to turn themselves in to authorities this week," according to the U.S. attorney's office.

"The city has moved forward to place both these men on immediate, forced, unpaid leave while we work through the disciplinary hearings," Maggie Crane, spokeswoman for Mayor Francis Slay, tells Daily RFT. "If the allegations are true, they deserve everything they get for betraying the public trust."

The federal grand jury indictment alleges that from January 2005 to December of last year, the two officials embezzled funds from the city through sham invoices, which included false charges of around $464,722. The announcement of the indictment says:

They used the funds for their own personal use, including lease payments on personal vehicles, fuel costs, the payment of personal credit card charges, and other personal living expenses unrelated to the legitimate operations of the St. Louis Parks Division.

They did so, authorities say, by setting up a sham company called Dynamic Management, where they funneled city funds. They then used these fraudulently obtained funds for their own personal use, the indictment says.

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"Taxpayers were slapped in the face when roughly half a million dollars was allegedly embezzled from City of St. Louis funds allocated to the Parks Department," Dean Bryant, head of the FBI's St. Louis office, says in a statement. "The cooperation from the City of St. Louis enabled the FBI to uncover the multiple fraudulent schemes."

Crane tells us that the FBI alerted city officials to its investigation and asked them to hold off on any internal investigation or disciplinary action until the FBI's process was completed.

As soon as the city was able, it launched its own disciplinary process this week, she says.

This was a complete surprise to the mayor and other officials, she adds.

"We'll be looking at how this happened to minimize any risk of it ever happening again," she says.

If convicted, each of these charges carries a maximum penalty of twenty years in prison and possibly fines up to $250,000.

The two could not be reached for comment this morning.

Update, 4:30 p.m.: Daily RFT reached Lawyer Scott Rosenblum, representing Stritzel, who says that his client is turning himself in and will be released on bond.

"There will be an arraignment down the road," he says, adding that he has been in discussion with the Assistant United States Attorney handling this case for several months.

"I'm not in a position to comment on the allegations," he says.

Here's a copy of the indictment (h/t):

Indictment Thomas Stritzel, Joseph Vacca

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.



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11 comments
James Madison
James Madison

We must starve the beast - cut off more and more tax revenues, and watch the thieves flee to other places. I want my parks clean, safe, and natural, Not an artificial garden of luxury. The City Parks Dept can do more with less.

James Madison
James Madison

how is it it took this long to realize a half a million dollars was missing? Are we paying so much in taxes for the parks that a half a million is not noticed over eight years? Time to trim the budget and decrease the taxes! I also call for the firing of their supervisors and the auditors and accountants. These city employees are simply not doing their jobs but are taking a paycheck.

Sharon Cooper Denich
Sharon Cooper Denich

im glad all thieves get their comeuppance when their time is due. proof that Karma is alive and well in our society. shame, shame upon you "officials". what kind of example do you think you are setting for our youth?

Thee Lovingcup
Thee Lovingcup

Hopefully they fix the glitch that allows payment of invoices without the kind of justification that would stop this abuse.

David Hays
David Hays

Is anyone in charge in the city of St. Louis? How long would this have continued if the FBI had not found out?

Thee Lovingcup
Thee Lovingcup

Fraud and waste were my biggest concerns about passing more money to GRG and local parks. GRG is probably good, but the extra money for city and county parks... well, hopefully they got that out of the system now... My questions is, how do invoices get approved in StL City? Can I just send one too as an approved vendor and get paid? No questions asked by anyone in authority?

Galin Rizov
Galin Rizov

Can't wait to see the American justice system turn its wheels ..... This happens all over the world but in most places they will walk.

Otis G. Grove III
Otis G. Grove III

I used to work with both of them. The whole department is full of nepotism. Once Joe Leisure stepped down the whole department went to hell.

Tamia Banks
Tamia Banks

this is why I didnt want to vote for the last Prop P

Chris Ferguson
Chris Ferguson

Good thing we just voted to give them more sales tax money! I'm sure they will keep a better eye on it from now on right....

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