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.
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.
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.