Author: stlreporter

C.D. Stelzer is a St. Louis-based, award-winning investigative journalist. Contents © C.D. Stelzer.

Once Upon a Time in New Orleans

Cavorting with the corpse of Ernie K-Doe leads to a dark corner of the Big Easy’s past. 

Ernie K-Doe’s funeral, New Orleans, June 2001

It was June 2001 and we were seeking shelter from the sun, having just finished dancing for several hours in a New Orleans funeral procession. The second line had followed the brass bands from downtown out to St. Louis Cemetery No. 2. The parade honored the late Ernie K-Doe, self-described “Emperor of the Universe.” K-Doe a local rhythm and blues recording artist, had one chart buster back in 1962 — Mother-in-Law.

Hoofing back in the direction of our hotel, we stopped at the first available watering hole, Cosimo’s, a little bar at 1201 Burgundy St., on the edge of the French Quarter. Not your typical raucous Bourbon Street dive, Cosimo’s was cool and dark and quiet inside. The bartender looked like she may have been serving drinks at the place since it opened. Cosimo’s was the kind of place where native New Orleans residents came to escape the hordes of tourists. The regulars all seemed to know each other.

Cosimo’s bar, 1201 Burgundy St., New Orleans.

A new digitized jukebox had recently been installed and the bartender was having difficulty figuring out how it worked. During some small talk, she let it slip out that owner of the place also owned the jukebox company. When she walked to the other end of the bar, I leaned over and whispered to Alison, “This place looks like it’s mobbed up.” Since then, the term “mobbed up” has become an inside joke with us because I seem to see vestiges of organized crime around every corner. Perhaps this annoying little quirk of mine fits more snugly in a city like New Orleans, a city that never has tried to hide behind a veneer of respectability as much as St. Louis. The corruption in the Crescent City has always been closer to the surface, less hidden.

After we got back home, I received a review copy of Rearview Mirror: Looking Back at the FBI, the CIA and Other Tails by former FBI agent William Turner. After he split from the bureau in the 1960s, Turner became an editor at Ramparts magazine. Later, he helped New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison investigate the Kennedy assassination. Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin, had spent time in New Orleans in the year preceding the assassination, hanging out with a group of right-wing extremists, including Clay Shaw, David Ferrie and Guy Bannister, an ex-FBI agent from Chicago. Bannister ran a private detective agency in New Orleans, which was a front for Anti-Castro guerrilla operations.

David Ferrie, left, with Lee Harvey Oswald at a Civil Air Patrol outing in 1955.

In 1968, when Garrison started trying to unravel these connections, he had a sit-down with Dean Andrews, a friend and fellow attorney. Garrison believed that Shaw was involved in the plot to kill Kennedy because he had briefly hired Andrews to defend Oswald almost immediately after the alleged assassin had been arrested. Here’s an excerpt from Turner’s book:

“… Within days of the assassination, attorney Dean A. Andrews had tipped the FBI about a link between Oswald and Shaw, who was using the pseudonym Clay Bertrand. … Andrews, a Falstaffian figure with a flair for hip language, later told the Warren Commission that he had ran a kind of turnstile law practice in which he secured the release of `gay swishers’ arrested by the police in violation of sumptuary laws. … Continuing, Andrews mentioned that on the day after the assassination he was recovering from an illness in the Hotel Dieu Hospital when `the phone rang and a voice I recognized as Clay Bertrand asked me if I would go to Dallas’ to defend Oswald.’ …

“Although the (Warren) Commission discounted Andrews statement, Garrison didn’t. He knew Andrews, having gone to Tulane law school with him. … So one of the first things that (Garrison) did when he reopened his JFK file in late 1967 was to send his investigators into the French Quarter to seek out the elusive Bertrand. Back came the word: Clay Bertrand was the name Clay Shaw used in the Quarter, and one of his haunts was Cosimo’s bar, which Andrews had depicted … as a ‘freaky little place where he once spotted Bertrand.'”

Of course, I didn’t know this when I was sipping a near beer at Cosimo’s in the summer of 2001. The 20th Century was still clear in my own rearview mirror and 9/11 was not anywhere on my horizon. The day that we danced at Ernie K-Doe’s funeral I was supposed to attend a luncheon at the Association of Alternative Newspapers’ convention at a big hotel on Canal Street. The keynote speaker was Oliver Stone, director o f the movie JFK. (In the screen version, Stone cast comedian John Candy as Dean Andrews.) My plan was to collar Stone, after his speech, and ask him if he needed a researcher on another one of his projects, a film about the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., which still remains dormant. Instead, I opted to dance at a New Orleans musician’s funeral.

The jukebox selection at Cosimo’s even nowadays tends more towards Frank Sinatra. Still I image that K-Doe’s one hit, Mother-in-Law, might have been playing on a sultry New Orleans’ night more than 40 years ago, when Clay Shaw and David Ferrie partied and plotted down on Burgundy Street.

Ernie K-Doe and Oliver Stone unwittingly conspired to bring me to that bar stool at Cosimo’s on a hot summer’s day. You could call it a random convergence or something more fatalistic. However you choose to spin it, it’s funny how you can be standing in the wake of history and not even know it until long after you’re immersed by a wave of time.

Come to think of it, I guess that’s what history is.

Under the Radar

East Side player Gary Fears and his diverse business associates are betting that his military aviation business finally takes off. Whether it will fly is still up in the air.

By C.D. Stelzer

First published at focusmidwest.com in May 2010.

 

“It’s interesting that the guys who came here to help move the plane actually were Russian nationals,” says Cheryl Hill, a prosecutor in Marquette, Michigan.

Hill is referring to a gargantuan Soviet military aircraft worth millions of dollars that has been stranded for the better part of the last year at a former U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command base in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Gary Fears’ Ilyushin IL-78.

The spring thaw has melted the snow that accumulated around the aircraft over the winter, but mysteries surrounding its presence at Sawyer International Airport remain.

A fuel-leaking Cold War relic, the 94-ton behemoth has been the subject of both curiosity and consternation in Marquette since it touched down in July. Almost immediately, five members of the Ilyushin IL-78’s nine-man Ukrainian crew were deported for visa violations.

Hill, the local official charged with interim custody of the plane, recalls that one of the foreign-born aviators dispatched by the U.S. Customs Service to move the plane off the runway told her that he had flown the same aircraft during the Soviet Union’s war in Afghanistan in the 1980s. She mentions the coincidence as an aside, her prosecutorial inquisitiveness piqued more by the plane’s flight plan from last summer.

“I think that the more interesting question is, what were they going to do with it in Pakistan?” Hill says. “Were they running guns? Were they running drugs? Were they running people? You could drive tanks in there.”

The prosecutor’s suspicions raise a litany of other issues regarding accountability and transparency in the increasingly privatized war on terror, including the extent of U.S. military intelligence involvement, the veil of secrecy enveloping de facto covert operations, the purposes of such clandestine actions and who ultimately is profiting from the expansion of the wars now being waged in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The covert nature of the aircraft’s mission and those involved in carrying it out would never have come to light if not for a dispute over a maintenance bill.

Victor Miller, owner of Air 1 Flight Services of Sherman, Texas, filed suit against Air Support Systems LLC in June 2009, alleging that the company owed more than $70,000 in maintenance fees accrued during the two-anda-half years the plane was mothballed at the North Texas Regional Airport. After the Ukrainian crew took off with the plane the next month, it was grounded in Michigan, as a result of a restraining order, before it could leave U.S. airspace.

The registered owner of the plane is Gary R. Fears, a former Downstate Illinois powerbroker who now resides in South Florida. Fears dismisses the imbroglio over the plane as much ado about nothing.

“The whole thing was a huge misunderstanding,” says the 63-year-old Fears, who maintains his corporate address at his lawyer’s office in St. Louis County, Missouri.

Gary Fears

The leaseholder of the plane is North American Tactical Aviation Inc. (NATA), a corporation with the same Wilmington, Delaware, address as Air Support Systems LLC, a Fears-owned company with one asset: the grounded plane. That the corporations share the same Delaware incorporation address could easily be attributed to coincidence, but bankruptcy records filed on behalf of Air Support Systems in St. Louis last fall provide more details as to who invested money in the aircraft or lent money for its purchase.

The outstanding creditors listed in the filing include a private mercenary group, a shadowy front company in Gibraltar and an Illinois gambling executive with alleged ties to the Chicago mob. On October 23, a judge in Marquette County, Michigan, ruled in Miller’s favor and awarded him the plane as payment for the unpaid debt. To prevent the tanker from being taken, Fears countered by filing for Chapter 11 protection for Air Support Systems on October 28 in federal bankruptcy court in St. Louis.

“That stayed all of the action,” says Hill, the Marquette County prosecutor. On Dec. 17, Fears reversed his legal strategy and had his St. Louis bankruptcy attorney dismiss the case he had filed less than two months earlier. In March, the Michigan court’s ruling was upheld.

The decision is the latest twist in the bizarre legal dispute. The latest Michigan court ruling follows a decision by the Department of Homeland Security to release the plane. Miller could not be reached for comment, but Fears maintains that he is still the legitimate owner.

Buying a foreign military aircraft is not like other business transactions. Before Fears could get his hands on the IL-78, the federal government had to allow its importation. North American Tactical Aviation, the shadowy corporation that leased the plane from Fears after he purchased it, initially obtained permission to bring the plane to the United States. It is also the company involved in the failed effort to fly the plane to Pakistan last summer.

“I’m told that NATA [North American Tactical Aviation] had a contract to take the plane to Pakistan in support of the allied efforts there,” Fears says. He emphasizes that the mission had been officially sanctioned. “We bought the plane from the Ukrainian government. The Air Force wrote a letter in support of the importation of it, saying they thought the plane had potential use in support of U.S. training requirements. The refueling system on that airplane is common to many, many other countries.

“I view it as a logical and good thing to support the [war] effort,” says Fears. “It’s not to say that I agree politically with all efforts. I thought the Iraq war had a noble purpose and was grossly mishandled by the Bush administration, billions of dollars and thousands of American lives wasted. It was as bad as Vietnam in terms of misuse of assets. I view Afghanistan as far more complicated a question than Iraq, and I don’t know what the right answers are there. I’m glad I’m not the guy making the decisions.”

Strange bedfellows

Nevertheless, while the wars rage on, Fears views the purchase of the Ukrainian military aircraft as a pragmatic business choice and sound investment. Though he says that the plane was a one-time deal and that he is not a broker of military hardware, records related to his abortive bankruptcy filing on behalf of Air Support Systems show that his acquisition of the plane was not carried out alone. Fears received venture capital from an international security firm operated by former high-ranking military officials. The records show that Trident Response Group of Dallas sank more than $2.5 million into Air Support Systems for the purchase of “future aircraft” on December 5, 2005. The Federal Aviation Administration issued Air Support Systems a certificate of registration for the IL-78 nine months later.

Clint Bruce

Former Navy SEAL Clint Bruce, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, and businessman C. Dewey Elliott III founded TRG. Bruce is lauded on the Trident website as a past commander of SEAL platoons “engaged in direct support of the Global War on Terror.” Elliott, a fellow Annapolis alum, is listed as having been a “senior consultant with Washington and Boston-based firms where he supported intelligence, systems acquisitions and financial management for DoD [Department of Defense], Fortune 500 and multi-national clients.” The website shows Lt. Col. John B. Skinner III, an active Marine Corps Reserve officer, as TRG’s vice president of operations. The board of directors includes retired Marine Corps Gen. Jack Davis, a former federal agent and state law enforcement officer; and John W. Wroten, a Naval Academy grad, former Marine captain and retired vice president of Electronic Data Systems.

The involvement of former Navy personnel in backing the purchase of a military aircraft seems normal enough, but the other creditors come from widely divergent backgrounds.

Russell DeLeon

For instance, Headlands Ltd., a front company in Gibraltar, has more than $1.1 million tied up in the IL-78, according to the bankruptcy filing, By no small coincidence, Headlands’ address is in the same location as a mail drop for Russell De Leon. He is the husband of Ruth Parasol, the founder of PartyGaming, an online gambling company that has employed Fears’ lobbying services. Together De Leon and Parasol own 40 percent of PartyGaming. They reside in Gibraltar.

Parasol, who grew up in affluent Marin County, Calif., founded PartyGaming with profits from her family’s pornography business. Her father, Richard Parasol, a Holocaust survivor and former Israeli Army officer, opened a string of massage parlors in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district in the early 1970s. After graduating from law school, Ruth Parasol joined the family business, which by then was operating phone sex chat lines. The father and daughter then diversified, investing in Internet Entertainment Group Ltd., an online pornography company. In 1997 Ruth Parasol shifted her interests exclusively to online gambling, which proved even more profitable than the sex trade.

Robert Kjellander

Robert Kjellander

But after President George W. Bush signed a law banning online gambling in 2006, Internet gaming profits took a nosedive. In response, PartyGaming hired Avatar Enterprises Inc., Fears’ lobbying firm. Lobbying records show that Avatar used influential Republican and Democratic lobbyists to work on PartyGaming’s efforts to lift the ban. The Republican, Robert Kjellander, an Illinois lobbyist and former GOP national treasurer, is a close confidante of former White House adviser Karl Rove. The Democrat, Steven Schwadron, is a former chief of staff for Rep. Bill Delahunt of Massachusetts.

Congressional lobbying records show Schwadron represented Avatar on two legislative issues: Internet gaming and “legislation relating to wildfire prevention and suppression.”

Aside from being a midair refueling tanker, the IL-78 is touted by both Fears and NATA as a superb firefighting aircraft.

Fears says there is nothing mysterious about his business relationship with either Kjellander or Schwadron. “I knew Bob (Kjellander) from Springfield years ago, [and] Steve works for a law firm I use in D.C.,” says Fears. “Neither one of them are partners in Avatar. If someone is giving you advice … on the project, then better to be safe than sorry — you register them as having worked on that as well.”

The other major creditor of Air Support Systems is Chicago businessman Kevin Flynn, a casino executive and former gaming partner of Fears. The bankruptcy filing shows that in April 2008 Flynn secured a $1.3 million interest in the IL-78. Fears and Flynn crossed paths years earlier, when Flynn operated the Blue Chip Casino in Indiana. The two were later involved in a failed Indian casino development in California.

In 2001, the Illinois Gaming Board yanked Flynn’s long-dormant state license because two of his investors allegedly had ties to the Chicago mob.

At the time of the revocation, Flynn and his father, Donald Flynn, a former executive of Waste Management Inc., were seeking to transfer their existing gaming license from the shuttered Silver Eagle casino in East Dubuque, Illinois, so they could operate the proposed Emerald Casino in Rosemont, a Chicago suburb. Investors in the casino deal included a lineup of heavy hitters, including associates of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

But the state gaming board pulled the Flynns’ license because investors Nick Boscarino and Joseph Salamone were alleged to have ties to organized crime. Salamone, an Oak Park grocer, is the brother of Vito Salamone, a mob soldier who had originally been listed as a casino shareholder. Boscarino is a former Teamster official with close ties to Rosemont Mayor Donald E. Stephens. Boscarino and Stephens once owned a forklift rental company along with organized crime figure William Daddano Jr. The gaming board also cited Emerald for hiring a construction company owned by the wife of Peter M. DiFronzo, the brother of Chicago mob boss John “No Nose” DiFronzo.

The gaming board concluded that Flynn had displayed a “contentious pattern … of providing misleading information to the board and its staff.” “Other than his disagreement with the Illinois Gaming Board,” says Fears, “I don’t know any infraction of any kind that Kevin [Flynn] has ever been involved in.”

Grounded

The story of how Fears and his odd cast of creditors ended up with a grounded Ukrainian behemoth leaking fuel on the tarmac of an isolated airstrip in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan began four years ago.

The IL-78, which was formerly owned by the Ukrainian Air Force, departed Kiev on May 23, 2006, according to flight records. It refueled in Reykjavik, Iceland, before landing the next day at the North Texas Regional Airport, formerly Perrin Air Force Base, in Sherman, Texas. Tactical Air Defense Services, a private military-related start-up company formed by Fears, ran the operational arm of its enterprise at the airport, says retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Charles Searock.

“It was, at the time, the location of a training school wherein we were going to train foreign pilots,” says Searock, a seasoned combat pilot who flew more than 150 B-52 missions during the Vietnam War. The principal officers of TADS, Victor Miller and Mark Daniels, had signed up Searock to oversee the International Tactical Training Center, an ambitious program aimed at providing flight training for NATO pilots and others. Miller also owned and operated Air 1 Flight Services, an aviation maintenance service, at the same airport.

Neither Miller or Daniels could be reached for comment, but a lawsuit filed by the two men last year in Palm Beach County (Florida) Circuit Court provides a glimpse of what apparently transpired.

In March 2005, according to the suit, Fears and a group of Florida investors approached Miller and Daniels to offer financing for their company AeroGroup Inc., a Utah-incorporated military flight training contractor. At that time, AeroGroup had a pending contract to buy the IL-78 and other foreign military aircraft from NATA.

Fears and the other investors claimed that they had obtained control of a publicly traded Nevada mining company, Natalma Industries Inc., and intended to change its name to Tactical Air Defense Services Inc. The intended purpose of the newly formed entity was to raise tens of millions of dollars to bankroll the purchase of assets on behalf of AeroGroup, specifically to buy the IL-78, according to the lawsuit. Toward these ends, Fears solicited start-up capital from Jeff Horan of JT Hanco, according to the lawsuit.

However, the suit claims, instead of backing AeroGroup Fears diverted funds to set up Air Support Systems, which then bought the IL-78 for itself. In Air Support’s 2009 bankruptcy filing, Horan’s name is listed with Trident Response Group, the Dallas-based security firm, as having invested more than $2.5 million in the IL-78.

Miller and Daniels further alleged that when TADS purchased AeroGroup’s assets in 2006 the Florida investors were still contending that tens of millions of dollars would soon be available. A TADS prospectus states that the company was angling to team up with an unnamed competitor [NATA] to provide combat and midair refueling training with the IL-78 and other foreign aircraft. “We have a good chance of being awarded the contract,” the TADS document says.

But the deal never materialized.

“This whole thing was predicated on Air Force contracts that were being negotiated by Mr. Mark Daniels,” says Searock. The contracts, however, were never finalized. As a result, “when they went public with TADS it did not generate the income or the investors as they anticipated,” Searock says.

From Searock’s perspective, everything seemed to be on the level. “We would meet quarterly, sometimes more often, with Mr. Fears and the guys from Florida,” he recalls. “We met in Florida. We met a couple times in Dallas, as he was passing through, and a couple times he came to Sherman. I had no problem with him. We were involved in a lot of different things, including the tanker. There was no reason for me to suspect that these guys weren’t on the up-and-up, if they poured $5 or $6 million into getting this airplane [the IL-78] and having it totally refurbished and delivered. That was an expensive scheme, if it was a scheme.”

But Searock became disenchanted with his employers after he says he shelled out his own cash to cover operating expenses and wasn’t reimbursed. He resigned from his position at the end of 2006 and sued TADS and all of the principal players, including Fears, for back pay.

Miller and Daniels dropped their Florida lawsuit in April 2009 after reaching a settlement agreement with Fears and other investors. As owner of Air 1 Flight Services, however, Miller placed a lien for unpaid service costs on the IL-78 in Texas in June 2009.

Shortly before noon on July 17, 2009, a nine-member Ukrainian crew hired by NATA boarded the IL-78 and took off from North Texas Regional Airport. The flight plan called for the craft to refuel at Wittman Regional Airport, in Oshkosh, Wis., before leaving U.S. airspace and heading to Pakistan. Alerted to the plane’s departure, Miller filed a restraining order, and the plane was diverted to Sawyer International Airport, in Gwinn, Mich., where it has been stranded ever since as a result of litigation.

Despite the Michigan court ruling that favors Miller’s cause, Fears doesn’t believe that the lawsuit has any more validity than the earlier case filed in Florida that Miller and his partner chose not to pursue.

“Air Support Systems owns the plane. It’s registered with the FAA,” says Fears. “The whole thing was a huge misunderstanding and blown out of proportion by the press. Victor Miller and those guys checked with the FAA, found where the plane was at and called the local authorities and said, ‘They have left in violation of a court order.’” But Fears says there’s one problem with that allegation: “ NATA was never served with that court order.”

Fears says Miller’s aviation firm, Air 1 Flight Services, has been out of business for two years. “I can show you the agreement that Victor Miller signed and the release on the lien that shows those bills’ being paid,” says Fears. “It was a phony claim by a company that didn’t exist.

“This is a military aircraft — and it is going over to support the U.S. Air Force allied efforts over there [Afghanistan-Pakistan].”

In 1968, as a young man, Fears stumped for Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Eugene McCarthy of Wisconsin, who campaigned against the Vietnam War. Today, more than four decades later, he appears comfortable with the concept of profiting from warfare. When asked about his role as a modern day privateer, he paraphrases President George W. Bush’s first secretary of defense: “I think maybe it was [Donald] Rumsfeld who said, ‘If it’s not firing a gun, we should look at privatizing it.’”

Asked whether his activities are somehow involved with covert CIA operations, Fears laughs. “Not that I’m aware of,” he says. “I wish there was something that exciting to all this stuff that I was a CIA guy, but that’s not the case.”

This special report was funded by a grant from the Press Club of Metropolitan St. Louis.

Blind Spot

When two Pentagon bosses showed up to grab a chunk of the city back in December, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch discretely chose not to mention them or the new military landlord on the Northside.

 

Better Dead than Red: Warning sign at 23rd and Cass cites the Internal Security Act of 1950.

The sign cautions visitors they are not welcome to enter without the permission of the “Installation Commander.” Bold letters above the warning identify the site as a U.S. Air Force installation. The advisory is posted on a locked gate at 23rd and Cass in North St. Louis, one of the entry points to the 97-acre development site of the planned National Geospatial Intelligence Agency headquarters.

The city, which spent $100 million in taxpayers funds to prepare the property, gave it away to the Air Force back on December 13 at a ceremony held at the St. Louis Public Library’s main branch. But readers of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch were not informed of the identity of the new landlord in the story by reporter Jacob Barker the next day. Nor were newspaper readers informed of two high-ranking military officials who attended the event.

One of the unmentioned officials in the Post story, was Assistant Secretary of Defense Robert H. McMahon, who gave a speech to the 300 people in attendance. The other Pentagon speaker the newspaper forgot about was Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Richard K. Hartley, a former CIA operative detached to the National Reconnaissance Office from 1997 to 2003.

Dec. 13, 2018 NGA Land Transfer Ceremony honorees: (from left) federal felon and former St. Louis Economic Development Partnership CEO Sheila Sweeney; unelected Missouri Gov. Mike Parson; Assistant Defense Secretary Robert McMahon, Deputy Assistant Air Force Secretary Richard K. Hartley, a former CIA agent; NGA Director Robert Cardillo; St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson; Rep Lacy Clay; Rep. Ann Wagner; Aldermanic President Louis Reed. (Photo courtesy of KMOX Radio, Debbie Monterrey)

In their comments, the two officials thanked St. Louisans  for their generosity, and alluded to the Air Force being happy to be “embedded” in St. Louis. Both military officials were applauded and warmly received by the audience. All the invited local dignities heaped praise on the cooperative spirit that was necessary to entice the spy agency to locate on the Northside. None hinted that it could be dangerous to locate a high-value enemy target in the middle of a densely populated urban area, nor did the Post story elude to this possible risk.

The warning sign on the gate of St. Louis’ new Air Force Installation prohibits entry to the site, citing the Internal Security Act of 1950, otherwise known as the Subversive Activities Control Act. President Harry Truman vetoed  that bill in September 1950, sending it back to Congress with a blistering message in which he slammed the legislation as “the greatest danger to freedom of speech, press, and assembly since the Alien and Sedition Laws of 1798,” a “mockery of the Bill of Rights” and a “long step toward totalitarianism.” Influenced by the anti-communist hysteria of McCarthy Era, the House overwhelming overturned Truman’s veto.

St. Louis is now a garrison city. Its citizens paid for the privilege of being occupied.

 

A Good Day for a Hanging

Former County Executive Steve Stenger pleads not guilty to bribery, mail fraud, and theft of honest services, as giddiness infects the press gallery and U.S. Marshals hand out steno pads.

All Smiles: Former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger (fourth from left) poses with other dignitaries on Dec. 13, 2018 at the NGA Land Transfer ceremony held at the St. Louis Public Library Central Branch. Immediately behind Stenger is Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Richard K. Hartley, a former CIA operative attached to the National Reconnaissance Office, 1997 to 2003.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal Goldsmith stayed on script Monday afternoon, responding tersely to questions posed by a gaggle of reporters during a news conference held on the sidewalk outside the Thomas Eagleton Federal Courthouse in downtown St. Louis.

“We are confident of our case,” Goldsmith said, referring to the three-count criminal indictment issued by the U.S. Justice Department against former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger. Following this vague answer, a veteran broadcast journalist turned aside and muttered to himself: “Great sound bite — six words.”

The dearth of prosecutorial verbosity and courthouse histrionics did not deter the assembled press, however, from relishing the proceedings in an amicable atmosphere akin to the camaraderie shared by farmers of bygone days who went to town to witness a hanging in the public square.

To commemorate the auspicious event, U.S. Marshals offered free notebooks and pens, but there were few takers. The journalists in attendance seemed satisfied to gloat rather than scribble. KMOV-TV hired a sketch artist for the occasion.

The only thing missing were picnic baskets.

After pleading not guilty to bribery, mail fraud and theft of honest services, Stenger was released on his own recognizance by Judge Noelle  C. Collins. Celebrated defense attorney Scott Rosenblum represented Stenger during the arraignment.

The second term Democrat resigned from public office Monday morning following the release of the indictments. He had won reelection in November but continued to be dogged by allegations of corruption involving favors granted to campaign contributors, including businessman John Rallo. The scandal, which played out in the pages of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and before the St. Louis County Council over the course of the last year, centered on the actions of Stenger underling Shelia Sweeney, CEO of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership.

Five Post-Dispatch reporters contributed to the story today. A pack of TV and radio reporters were also present.

One of the many questions not asked of Goldsmith at his sidewalk press conference was whether federal investigators are probing the contract between the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and Kit Bond Strategies, the lobbying firm of former U.S. Sen. Kit Bond and his wife.

In January 2016,   Linda Bond, the former senator’s wife, signed a contract with St. Louis Economic Development Partnership CEO Sheila Sweeney. The Development Partnership is a joint government agency of the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County, which wields broad powers and operates largely in the shadows with the benefit of millions of dollars in annual payments from  casino interests raked in by the St. Louis County Port Authority, an agency that shares the same staff as the Development Partnership. The County Port Authority’s purpose has nothing to do with ports. Instead, it acts as a conduit for the casino payments.

In 2016 and 2017, the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership funneled $230,000 of public funds to Kit Bond Strategies, according to federal lobbying reports. Part of that total went to pay for the failed congressional effort to turn the West Lake Landfill Superfund Site over to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — an agency that expressed serious reservations about assuming the responsibility for taking control of the project in the first place. The exact amount spent specifically on the West Lake lobbying effort is uncertain. A request under the Missouri Sunshine Law for further details was denied last fall.  But this much is known:  the development agency’s contract called for KBS to be paid $10,000 a month for its services. The lobbying records show that the public money was doled out to the lobbyist in quarterly payments. The St. Louis Economic Development Partnership paid the lobbying firm an additional $60,000 in 2018 , but by then the effort to persuade Congress to turn the West Lake clean up over to the Corps had been dropped.

Note: Stenger pleaded guilty on May 3. 

Rip Off

Judges in Paradise: Headquarters of Global Security Service near Festus, which is also the residence of the owner of the business — Judge Ed Page, and his wife, Judge Lisa Pagano Page.

Global Security Service — a company founded by convicted murderer William N. Pagano — overcharged the St. Louis Parks Department $285,000 over a period of years, but when the jig was finally up, the feds refused to prosecute. Instead, they claimed the politically-connected firm had been duped. 

The swindle continued undetected for several years, with the co-conspirators funneling misappropriated funds in monthly installments to a dummy corporation located in a South St. Louis County strip mall. Gradually, the pilfering added up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The majority of the graft involved a city contractor with a checkered history — Global Security Service. But a federal probe concluded that the firm itself was an unwitting victim in the scam.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dec. 6, 2013.

Two  St. Louis Parks Department officials pleaded guilty to the crime in 2013 and received light prison sentences. In addition to Global Security, two other city contractors avoided prosecution. 

Appearing before Judge Carol E. Jackson at the sentencing of one of the defendants, Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal Goldsmith absolved Global Security and the other vendors of complicity in the scheme, saying “we believe they were duped.” The embezzlement by the high-ranking city employees netted a total of nearly $500,000 from the St. Louis Parks Department. $285,000 of that amount was due to the creative accounting methods of Global Security.

Global Security is owned by Jefferson County Associate Circuit Court Judge Edward L. Page, who took control of the business in 1992, after his father-in-law. William N. Pagano, was charged with murder. Page is married to Pagano’s daughter, Lisa Pagano Page. William Pagano founded Global Security in 1987, while serving as the Festus, Mo. police chief. In 1991, Pagano was charged with homicide in the shooting death of  Mark Todd, a top lieutenant in Pagano’s private security guard service. Pagano was convicted of the crime, but never served time because he committed suicide in 1994, after his appeals efforts had been exhausted.

Jefferson County Associate Circuit Court Judge Ed Page, the late William Pagano’s son-in-law and current president of Global Security Service.

Pagano’s tragic death did not thwart the growth of the company he founded, however. Under his son-in-law’s ownership, Global Security thrived, and mushroomed into one of the largest private security services in the Midwest. Between 2009 and 2013, the company raked in more than $2 million from its city contract alone, providing guard services to the train station, bus depot, Soldiers Memorial and other city-owned sites.

The deal with the city started going sideways when Global Security became involved in the scheme hatched by Deputy Parks Commissioner Joseph Vacca and chief park ranger Thomas “Dan” Stritzel to embezzle city funds under the guise of acquiring additional equipment not provided for in the city budget, according to the federal indictments. The ruse continued for years, with Global Security overcharging the city and funneling the excess money to Dynamic Management Group, a dummy corporation set up by David Michael Goetz, a friend and business associate of Stritzel. But Goldsmith, the federal prosecutor, argued in 2013 that Global Security was an unwitting participant, and, therefore, not complicit.

Then-St. Louis Parks Department Commissioner Gary Bess admitted no foreknowledge of wrongdoing and apologized for the actions of his subordinates. A  little more than a year late, in January 2015, he retired from his long-held city position, and was immediately appointed director of the St. Louis County Parks Department by newly elected St. Louis County Executive Stenger.  Bess resigned his county post last month in the wake of the ouster of Stenger, who pleaded guilty to unrelated federal corruption charges.

Page was recently elected on the Republican ticket as an Associate Circuit Court Judge in Jefferson County. Jefferson County unlike the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County is not bound by the non-partisan court plan. Page’s  wife is a jurist of higher standing. Lisa Page, the daughter of the late William N. Pagano, was appointed to the Missouri Court of Appeals by then-Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, in December 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mafia and Rex Sinquefield

In his bid to privatize the St. Louis airport, billionaire Rex Sinquefield jumped in bed with a consultant with mob ties, according to the feds.

Jeff Aboussie, a consultant connected to billionaire Rex Sinquefield’s scheme to privatize Lambert International Airport, has Mafia ties dating back to the 1980s, STLReporter has learned.

Aboussie’s Mafia connections are referenced in background information included in a 1988 federal appeals court ruling on a case involving convicted racketeer Sorkis Webbe Jr., a criminal associate of Aboussie’s.

Nov. 25, 1983 St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The  information is contained in an Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling and is based on an FBI wiretap that captured conversations in which Aboussie discussed efforts to track down a rival gang member during a protracted turf war between competing factions of the St. Louis underworld in the early 1980s. The background in the appeals court decision names Aboussie as being associated with a Kansas City, Missouri organized crime family. The appeals court ruling goes on to say that Aboussie provided support to one of side of the gang war by “contacting the Denver and Chicago crime families.”

Aboussie, who now resides in the affluent suburban town of Wildwood, is the former head of the St. Louis Building and Constructions Trades Council. Prior to heading the council, he was affiliated with Operating Engineers Union Local 513. Aboussie resigned from the St. Louis Airport Commission in 2016 to form Regional Strategies, a consulting firm connected to Grow Missouri,  the non-profit corporation formed by Sinquefield to push the billionaire’s plan to privatize the city-owned airport. Aboussie was appointed to the commission by former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger in 2015. Stenger resigned last month and pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges. 

 Webbe — Aboussie’s past partner in crime —  played a pivotal role in the federal sting that ultimately brought down Stenger, introducing the politician to shady businessman John Rallo and also attending a meeting with Stenger and St. Louis Economic Development Partnership CEO Sheila Sweeney. Stenger and Sweeney pleaded guilty earlier this month for their roles in the pay-to-play scheme. Rallo pleaded not guilty to the same charges. Webbe was not charged. 

In 1983, Webbe and Aboussie were implicated by the feds in a conspiracy to harbor a fugitive wanted for participating in a series of gangland car-bombings here. The feds indicted Aboussie for lying to a federal grand jury about the plot. 

Aboussie later pleaded guilty to insurance fraud in a separate federal criminal case and received a six month sentence and five years probation. As a part of the same 1985 plea deal, the feds dropped the perjury charges. The full terms of the plea deal remain unknown.

In the current investigation, the U.S. attorney’s office here subpoenaed the personnel records of Lou Aboussie, Jeff Aboussie’s first cousin. Lou Aboussie was hired by Stenger in 2015 at an annual salary of more than $75,000. At the time of his resignation earlier this year, he was listed as working for the County Parks Department, then-headed by Gary Bess, another Stenger appointee who also quit in the shakeup of County government that took place in the wake of the federal indictments of Stenger and his accomplices. Lou Aboussie was formerly an aide to U.S . Rep. Lacy Clay.

 

 

Meet The New Boss

The recent coup in county government installed an old crop of political insiders to oversee the public use of casino cash. Has anything really changed? 

Penn National Gaming’s River City Casino in South St. Louis County.

The last six months have been tumultuous for St. Louis County government, culminating in the recent resignation of County Executive Steve Stenger and his pleading guilty to federal corruption charges.

His partners in crime included St. Louis Economic Development Partnership CEO Sheila Sweeney and businessman John Rallo. Sweeney also directed the St. Louis County Port Authority before she resigned in January. The scheme in which the three participated involved funneling rent payments from the River City Casino to the County Port Authority. The money was then passed on to the Development Partnership, where some of it ended up being used to award contracts to Rallo in exchange for his campaign contributions.

The complicated conspiracy was exposed by enterprising reporters at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, who doggedly pursued various parts of the scam for more than a year. After the feds indicted Stenger and the two others, the U.S. Attorney’s Office took over the narrative. As stories go, this one is beginning to play out. The official version of events has been crafted in the federal indictments. Soon the newspaper coverage will dwindle and stop, subsumed by other news — leaving things to return to normal.

Shakeups such as this provide rare opportunities to glimpse under the proverbial rock to see the creepy, crawly machinations of local politics. But that chance never lasts too long.  In the aftermath of such scandals such as this, a mop-up crew is quickly dispatched to restore the status quo, place the listing ship of government once again on an even keel. The fact that the boat may have been off course to begin with is never questioned.

GI’s back in World War II invented an acronym to describe such circumstances — snafu — “situation normal all fucked up..” In this case, the 4th Estate has predictably lauded itself for exposing wrongdoing, while law enforcement and the judiciary have taken pride in meting out justice. Meanwhile, inside County government its business as usual, funny business.

The New Boss: Attorney John W. Maupin, chairman of the St. Louis County Port Authority.

Last November, in the lead up to Stenger’s ultimate downfall, the St. Louis County Council appointed members to its own St. Louis County Port Authority, which has now replaced the board appointed by Stenger. The interim director of the new and improved Port Authority is Denny Coleman, former director of the St. Louis County Economic Development Council, the precursor to the Development Partnership.  In his previous leadership capacity, Coleman was responsible for helping to score the deal that resulted in Penn National Gaming Inc. — the current owners of the River City Casino — paying an estimated $5 million in rent annually to the St. Louis County Port Authority.

Coleman will keep an eye on the casino cash with the the newly installed Port Authority board, which is now chaired by attorney John W. Maupin,  a Republican appointed to the position in November by then-District 2 Councilman Sam Page. Page, of course, is now the newly unelected County Executive who replaced Stenger.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 16, 1995.

Maupin has led a distinguished career as an attorney, but his record as a public servant includes its share of controversy.

In 1995, then-State Auditor Margaret Kelly issued a scathing report that blamed the Missouri Ethics Commission — then chaired by Maupin — for failure to enforce campaign finance disclosure laws, hiding information from the public, and making an unauthorized payment, according to a story by Post-Dispatch reporter Terry Ganey. When confronted by Kelly’s findings, Maupin shirked responsibility and denied all wrongdoing by the commission and its staff.

That’s enough raise an eyebrow as to why Page and the County Council would appoint Maupin to the Port Authority in the wake of the latest flap.

But that’s not all. In 1997, with Maupin still at the helm of the Ethics Commission, the Post-Dispatch reported on a lawsuit filed by attorney Ronald Jenkins, who the commission had appointed as a special prosecutor in 1994 to probe campaign finance violations by then-St. Louis City Comptroller Virvus Jones. Jenkins had sued the commission to be reimbursed for his legal services, but the Missouri Court of Appeals ruled against him, which seems straight forward enough.

Another story in the same edition of the newspaper, however, raises questions as to why Maupin and the Missouri Ethics Commission appointed Jenkins as special prosecutor in the first place. Because by then, Jenkins, the special prosecutor, was acting as the criminal defense attorney for Amiel Cueto, the attorney and business partner of Eastside racketeer Thomas Venezia. Cueto and Venezia would both be convicted on federal racketeering charges.

Jenkins is a partner in the law firm of Jenkins & Kling along with Stephen Kling Jr. and his spouse Rebecca Kling. Stephen Kling Jr. is the son of the late S. Lee Kling. S. Lee Kling was the founder of Landmark Bancshares in St. Louis and a Democratic power broker. He died in 2008. S. Lee Kling was President Jimmy Carter’s  national campaign finance chief and a campaign financial advisor to U.S. Rep Dick Gephardt for years.

There’s always trouble in River City, but only a small bit of it ever sees the light of day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The One That Got Away

The One that Got Away

A federal sting snares the mayor of St. Gabriel, Louisiana in a trashy scam and  links him to a St. Louis con artist who remains on the lam.  

by Will Delaney

first published in the Journal of Decompostion in 2012

As it meanders toward the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River slows and bunches together as if trying to delay the inevitable. The lingering creates a closer bond with the land. St. Gabriel, Louisiana, a sleepy Delta town of 6,600, hugs one of the river’s many serpentine bends south of Baton Rouge. The burg is located in Iberville Parish, the heart of Cajun country, but two thirds of its population is African American. And nearly one quarter of the inhabitants live below the poverty level. The town is noted for being the location of two state prisons, which house more than 2,700 inmates. The other major employer in the area is the petrol-chemical industry. With the exception of Slay Transportation, which has a truck terminal in St. Gabriel, there are few ties to St. Louis, a Midwestern city more than 600 miles to the north.

But that was before Igor Grushewsky came to town.

Former St. Gabriel Mayor George Grace (right) leaving federal court in Baton Rouge.

Grushewsky, who is wanted by the feds in St. Louis, showed up in St. Gabriel back in 2004, pitching a plan to build a basalt pipe plant that would help bring prosperity to the impoverished community. The chain-smoking Russian immigrant from St. Louis quickly gained the support of then-Mayor George Grace.

In March, Grace was convicted in an unrelated case on seven counts of racketeering in federal court in the Baton Rouge. The former mayor was found guilty of accepting more than $16,000 in kickbacks between 2008 and 2010 from Cifer 5000, a fictitious trash-can cleaning company set up by the FBI as part of Operation Blighted Official. In return for the payments, Grace worked to attract millions in public and private funding for the fake company.

During the trial, Grace and others also testified about an earlier scheme, this one hatched between the mayor and Grushewsky, who touted himself as the CEO of a corporation called Global Energy on North America, allegedly headquartered in St. Charles, Missouri.

According to court testimony, Grace signed a letter indicating the city of St. Gabriel’s intention to subsidize Global Energy’s plan to the tune of $1 million. The proposed project would have recouped expenses through nabbing state and federal economic development grants, but the idea never got beyond the drawing board. During the course of the aborted scam, however, Grushewsky managed to bilk the city out of as much as $20,000 in supposedly computer-related fees, which Grace then tried to cover up.

At the trial earlier this year in Baton Rouge, federal prosecutors said that Grushewsky has been under criminal indictment in St. Louis since 2007. Grushewsky is charged with mail and wire fraud for allegedly hustling people in several states out of more than $200,000 related to the bogus sales of Russian aircraft and diamonds, according to the Baton Rouge Advocate.

A YAK 18T

Kenneth Bracht of Washington state, one of the marks targeted by Grushewsky, filed a civil suit in federal court in St. Louis in 2005, after being taken in a scam involving the purported sale of a YAK 18T airplane. In 2000, Gruwshewsky incorporated Yakolev Centers of America, an aviation sales company, with the help of a St. Louis lawyer. The following year Bracht came to St. Louis to negotiate the deal, meeting with Grushewsky at a hangar at the Creve Coeur airport. Bracht agreed to purchase the plane for $80,000, and ultimately gave Grushewsky more than $58,000, while the aircraft was ostensibly being repaired. More than a year later, Grushewsky had failed to deliver the aircraft. Instead, he cut Bracht a check that bounced.

Grushewsky, who remains on the lam, is a licensed pilot and the owner of two YAK aircraft. One of the planes is registered with the FAA as being stored at Breese Airport in Clinton County, Illinois. The registration on the plane expired in March. The co-owner of the aircraft is listed as Richard Illyes of Maplewood, Missouri. Illyes is the former head of the Missouri Libertarian Party.

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The St. Louis Chainsaw Massacre

The St. Louis Chainsaw Massacre

When a tree falls in the city does anyone hear the cash register ring?

This story first appeared in the Journal of Decomposition in 2012.

By Bill Newmann

 

The hit jobs are carried out with military-like precision in broad daylight on city streets almost every day.  As a result, thousands of St. Louis’ oldest residents have disappeared over time, targeted for disposal without warning.  Moreover, the hatchet men in these coordinated attacks operate with immunity under a blanket law that provides authority to act with no public input.

The victims are mature hardwood trees that line city streets.  The perp is the Forestry Division of the St. Louis Parks Department. The city’s urban foresters adhere to a model shared nationally by the commercial timber industry, a world in which trees are planted, grown, and harvested in a perpetual cycle.  The strips of publicly-owned land between sidewalks and curbs are akin to a plantation, and the trees, an agricultural commodity.  Removing the mature tree canopy that shields the city is an unavoidable part of this municipal agribusiness.  Adding insult to injury, a private company profits from this taxpayer-subsidized scheme.

Street trees have become a cash crop.

In mid-2009, the Forestry Division, the local plantation overseer, put out a request for bids to privatize its composting operation.  Within two weeks of issuing the notice, St. Louis Composting, Inc. secured the contract.  St. Louis Composting, an Illinois corporation that sells a variety of compost and mulch products, was founded in 1992, the same year yard waste was banned from Missouri landfills.

Patrick T. Geraty, the owner of St. Louis Composting, began by subcontracting his services at then-Peerless Park Landfill in West St. Louis County.  Now the flagship location, it is one of five similar facilities operated by the company in the Bi-State area.  In the last twenty years, Geraty’s business has grown exponentially.  St. Louis Composting now claims to be the region’s largest composter, processing more than one-third of St. Louis County’s yard waste.  In 2009, it generated $12 million in revenue, according to the St. Louis Business Journal.

The city leases the private firm its Hall Street facility for a mere $12,000. The company reciprocates by forking over a tiny fraction of its output to the city — 5,000 cubic yards of mulch per year.  In the proposed budget for 2010, Forestry earmarks $250,000 for its outsourced composting operation. The city contract also sets a specific amount that St. Louis Composting receives for each cubic yard of municipal waste it accepts. Tabulating the total that is raked in is tricky. But there’s one accounting certainty to this murky arrangement: The city pay out is not the only way the corporation makes money.  In addition to charging the city, St. Louis Composting accepts material for a fee from private customers. Moreover, after processing the raw materials it is paid to accept, St. Louis Composting then charges up to $39 per cubic yard for its finished products.

Months before St. Louis Composting submitted its bid, the city issued a street tree study.  It was conducted by a private research firm, the Davey Resource Group, and was paid for by a hefty grant from the Missouri Department of Conservation.  Rooted in national urban forestry standards, the analysis focuses on cost-benefit comparisons and property values, not tree health.

The report concludes, “St. Louis has an aging tree population skewed towards mature trees.” Then in an understated manner, the study metes out its death sentence by decreeing that the culling of the city’s oldest hardwoods is an economic imperative: “An uneven age distribution, heavily weighted in younger trees, is an age structure that provides an even flow of benefits, even if major losses in canopy or species occur.”

The mass execution order, which is buried deep in the report, is masked by forestry jargon that trumpets “sustainability,” and other green buzzwords. The lethal ends are also camouflaged under the rubric of public safety, a catchall phrase used to justify the city lumberjacks’ deeds. In that regard, the Davey report recommends Forestry enforce an “aggressive risk-tree removal program.”

Sketchy guidelines such as these provide Forestry a cover under which it can condemn any tree.  Furthermore, due to the city’s fiscal problems, Forestry is under increasing pressure to perform to validate its annually allotted tree-maintenance budget of more than $2.2million.

The final nail in the coffin is a city ordinance enacted in 2010 that yields sole authority over all street trees to Forestry Commissioner Greg Hayes and his crew. Together they represent the judge and jury and there is no public appeals process. The law vests the Forestry boss with “police-power” to control the street-tree plantation. Violators who disobey the edict face stiff fines and imprisonment.

St. Louis Composting’s contract expires August 31.  According to the terms of the agreement, if it intends to request an extension, the company is required to provide written notice to St. Louis Comptroller Darlene Green by May 31.  A spokesman for the comptroller writes in an e-mail dated June 6, “I’ve been informed that nothing has been received as of yet.”

Mum’s the Word

Sheila Sweeney declined to comment when asked about the lobbying deal she signed with Kit Bond Strategies in 2016. 

As she exited the federal courthouse in St. Louis late Friday afternoon, Sheila Sweeney, 61, refused to comment on whether federal authorities have quizzed her about her role in steering a $240,000 lobbying contract to Kit Bond Strategies in early 2016.

Sheila Sweeney outside the federal courthouse in St. Louis with her attorney Justin Gelfand, Friday May 10, 2019.

Earlier, the former St. Louis Economic Development Partnership CEO pleaded guilty before federal Judge Catherine D. Perry to three-counts of defrauding the citizens of St. Louis County in the same pay-to-play scheme that snared former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger. Stenger pleaded guilty last week. Their partner in crime, John “Johnny Roller” Rallo, pleaded not guilty Friday morning. They were all charged with scheming to give contracts and property deals to Rallo in exchange for him contributing to Stenger’s campaign coffers.

The pay offs to Rallo were funneled by Sweeney through the St. Louis County Port Authority, which she also headed. The port authority received the funds from Penn National, the owner of River City Casino in South County. The casino pays the port authority about $5 million a year in rent, which is then passed on to the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership.

The money paid to Kit Bond Strategies appears to have originated from the same pool of cash. Sweeney signed the contract with Linda Bond, a principal partner in KBS with her husband, former U.S. Sen. Kit Bond. The St. Louis Economic Development Partnership paid KBS to lobby Congress to turn over the clean up of the radioactively-contaminated West Lake Landfill to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The effort to convince Congress to take the overall authority for the clean up away from the EPA and hand it over to the Corps involved coordinating the support of the St. Louis congressional delegation. As part of that effort, Rep. Ann Wagner (R) and Rep. Lacy Clay (D) testified together before a House subcommittee. The effort by KSB also included the support of then-Sen Claire McCaskill (D) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R). Legislation authorizing the turnover to the Corps passed the Senate, but failed to clear the House subcommittee.

 

The lobbying deal was carried out with little to no public knowledge, which raises questions as to why the effort kept on the low down. When asked about the deal on Friday, Sweeney remained mum.

After refusing to comment, Sweeney strolled across Clark Avenue with her attorneys and shared a laugh. She awaits sentencing and has been released on her own recognizance.

Life is good.