(The Center Square) – Two former employees of Flordell Hills, a municipality with a population of less than 1,000 in St. Louis County, were indicted by a grand jury on Wednesday for stealing $663,000 over six years.
According to a 2021 financial report filed with the Missouri Auditor, Flordell Hills had total receipts of $536,989 and disbursements of $388,340, resulting in an ending balance of $163,372. The theft took place from February 2016 to April 2022, according to the indictment.
The city is comprised of a six-block area. With a median household income of $28,092, approximately 52% of its residents are below the poverty level, according to U.S. Census data.
Maureen Woodson, 68 and the city clerk for 12 years, and Donna Thompson, 75 and the assistant city clerk for 10 years, were each indicted on two counts of wire fraud and two counts of mail fraud. Both were terminated in May.
“The amount of money at issue in this case is stunning, particularly from a small city with so many residents below the poverty line,” U.S. Attorney Sayler Fleming said in a statement announcing the indictment. “The loss of this money meant the city could sometimes not pay their bills.”
The indictment alleges Woodson and Thompson used two schemes to take money from the small city. The two wrote 614 checks to themselves for more than $531,000 without the authority or knowledge of the mayor, treasurer or members of the board of aldermen, according to the indictment.
Approximately 368 checks worth $376,026 were written to Woodson and 246 checks worth $155,329 were written to Thompson. The indictment alleges the women forged the signatures of the mayor and/or treasurer, which were required for authorization.
In the second scheme, the two used Flordell Hills bank checks and wire transfers worth $132,249 to pay for personal expenses, entertainment, restaurants, rent for their homes and tax payments to the Internal Revenue Service.
“It would be devastating for any city to have its money stolen year over year,” Special Agent in Charge Jay Greenberg of the Federal Bureau of Investigation St. Louis Division said in a statement. “It’s exponentially worse when an impoverished community gets fleeced by those sworn to serve it. Fighting public corruption is the FBI’s top criminal priority because such crimes undermine the community’s faith in our government.”
The two could face up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both for each charge. A forfeiture provision to recover the money was included in the indictment.