Skip to content

3 former aldermen get prison for bribery

ST. LOUIS — A federal judge sentenced three former city aldermen to prison Tuesday for accepting bribes from a local businessman, ending three years of investigation and a scandal that shook St. Louis politics. 

John Collins-Muhammad and Lewis Reed each received sentences of three years and nine months; Jeffrey Boyd three years. 

It was a conclusion to a case that involved surveillance, hundreds of hours of recorded phone calls and meetings, and thousands of text messages and emails, prosecutors said. The key player was a local businessman facing his own federal charges who handed out bribes in exchange for tax breaks and a cut rate on a city-owned property. 

In all, charges said Reed received $18,500 in cash and campaign donations, Collins-Muhammad received $10,000, a new iPhone and a 2016 Volkswagen CC sedan, and Boyd received $9,500 and free car repairs. As part of their sentences, Collins-Muhammad will be required to pay a $19,500 fine, Boyd a $23,500 fine and Reed an $18,500 fine. 

People are also reading…

Judge Stephen R. Clark said it felt from the evidence like the men viewed bribery as an “acceptable, appropriate, uneventful way of doing business.” 

“That’s a scar that will long be on the city of St. Louis,” he said. 

At the time of their indictments, Reed had served more than two decades as an alderman and board president; Boyd had served his north side ward for nearly 20 years and was chair of the city board that handles development; Collins-Muhammad was a rising political figure and first Muslim alderman in city history.

Their resignations shifted the political balance in the city from a moderate in Reed to his progressive successor Megan Green, who was sworn-in last month, and shined a spotlight on a St. Louis political tradition that dictated developments in a specific ward must be endorsed by the alderman who represents it.

It also raised public scorn about corruption in the city. At Tuesday’s sentencings, multiple residents spoke about their frustration with the aldermen and said it tainted their view of local politics and hurt their neighborhoods. 

But Reed, in a statement to the judge, urged residents not to hold anyone else responsible for his actions. 

“It is absolutely critical that people separate their absolutely justified indignation … from their faith and trust and belief in city government,” he said. 

Collins-Muhammad apologized on Tuesday to the court, the residents of St. Louis and his family.

“This has made me take a hard look in the mirror,” Collins-Muhammad said. “I am not the elected official I wanted to be.” 

Boyd also apologized, telling the judge: “The facts are, your honor, I screwed up. I screwed up badly.”

Former St. Louis Alderman Jeffery Boyd sentenced

Former St. Louis Alderman Jeffrey Boyd and his wife Patrice Johnson-Boyd walk out of Federal Court in St. Louis past the media without taking any questions after he was sentenced to three years in prison on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. Photo by David Carson,

The federal investigation began in 2020 with a business owner the Post-Dispatch has identified as Mohammed Almuttan. 

Almuttan co-owns and operates several gas stations and convenience stores in north St. Louis and north St. Louis County, and he was one of 35 people charged in 2017 in connection with a cigarette and synthetic marijuana trafficking sting. All but one of his charges were dismissed in April as part of a plea agreement. He is appealing his four-year sentence. 

The federal investigation into the aldermen involved two of his properties. 

The first was a new gas station and convenience store on Von Phul Street near Interstate 70 in Collins-Muhammad’s 21st Ward. Collins-Muhammad, and later Reed, helped Almuttan pursue tax breaks that he said would save him up to $250,000 over time. Throughout the process, Almuttan gave them money and campaign donations in return, according to the indictment.

Lewis Reed arrives for sentencing

Former President of the St. Louis Board of Alderman Lewis Reed (left) walks into Federal Court in St. Louis for his sentencing on corruption charges with his lawyer Scott Rosenblum on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. Photo by David Carson,

On another project, Boyd helped Almuttan purchase a commercial property on Geraldine Avenue in Boyd’s 22nd Ward from a city authority that owns thousands of vacant lots and abandoned buildings throughout St. Louis. 

Boyd said the site could be worth more than $100,000, but he wrote a letter to the authority’s director in August 2020 supporting a $9,000 offer for the property, according to the indictment. 

The authority’s board accepted $14,000. Boyd also vowed to help Almuttan receive a tax break on the project. 

Almuttan eventually returned the land to the city, prosecutors said Tuesday. 

Boyd also faced indictment in a separate wire fraud case in which he sought $22,000 from an insurance company for damaged vehicles he lied about owning. 

News of the indictments came in June. By the end of August, Collins-Muhammad had pleaded guilty to theft and bribery, racketeering and wire fraud; Reed to theft and bribery and racketeering; and Boyd to theft and bribery and two counts of wire fraud. 

Alderman recieve sentences

Former Alderman John Collins-Muhammad, second from left, walks out of the Thomas F. Eagleton United States Courthouse on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022 with his attorney, wife, and supporters after being sentenced on charges of federal corruption. Photo by Jordan Opp,

On Tuesday, all three apologized for the pain they’d caused their families, supporters and the city. 

“The fact that I gave up my passion and everything I worked for since middle school is something I will have to live with,” Collins-Muhammad said. 

Boyd highlighted his work with young people and how his family invested in crime-ridden neighborhoods that others abandoned long ago. “The person that’s in this indictment, that’s not who Jeffrey Boyd is,” he said. 

Reed recited a laundry list of accomplishments. “This unprecedented body of work would have been a source of pride,” he said. “All of that changes now.” 

U.S. Attorney Hal Goldsmith argued all three men should be sentenced to prison as outlined in federal guidelines.

“It’s a fact that because of this defendant’s criminal conduct,” Goldsmith said during Reed’s sentencing, “the people’s trust is not just broken in the defendant, Lewis Reed, but in government in general.” 

Goldsmith wrote in a memo the men’s conduct was part of an unfortunate pattern in the region of prison sentences for public corruption, citing former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, who accepted bribes in the form of campaign donations and was sentenced to three years, 10 months; state Rep. T.D. El-Amin, who accepted a bribe and was sentenced to 18 months; state Rep. Courtney Curtis, who stole campaign funds and was sentenced to one year, 9 months; and St. Louis Alderman Larry Arnowitz, who misused campaign funds and was sentenced to one year. 

Judge Clark said he hoped the prison sentences would make future offenders think twice before taking bribes. 

He allowed all three men to remain on bond until notified about where to report to prison. 

As they walked out of court Tuesday evening, Reed’s attorney, Scott Rosenblum, said his client was a “special individual” who will contribute positively to society in the future. 

“I have no doubt he will rise like a phoenix from these ashes,” he said. 

Nearby, Goldsmith took questions from reporters, one of whom asked him whether the corruption investigation was closed. 

He said he would not comment. 

Post-Dispatch reporter Erin Heffernan contributed to this report.