Update: As of August 26, 2022, all three former aldermen plead guilty to the allegations made by federal prosecutors and have been sentenced by a judge. The text of the following post has been updated to reflect the changes from allegations at the time of the original writing to guilty pleas.
By now I’m sure most of my readers have heard of the guilty pleas and sentences of now former President of the Board of Aldermen Lewis Reed and now former Aldermen Jeffrey Boyd and John Collins-Muhammad. I thought readers might be interested in seeing an objective tour of the major sites mentioned in the guilty pleas. First off, let’s talk about the first photo above, of the Northway Market. Our story begins with the indictment years ago of almost two dozen suspects who had been engaging in cigarette bootlegging out of the Northway and other stores. John Doe One, who everyone knows is Muhammad Almuttan, clearly became an informant to beat the majority of his charges related to the raids at the markets such as the Northway.
Which brings us to our next site, which is the southwest corner of the intersection of Adelaide and Von Phul Streets, which is really right at an offramp for I-70 and Adelaide in the College Hill neighborhood, in the 21st Ward, where Collins-Muhammad formerly served as alderman; the Pink Sisters are only a block away. There was community opposition, for obvious reasons, as this is already an area severely impacted by the interstate, residential in character, and only one highway exit from two gargantuan gas stations at the Carrie/North Broadway exit. There is really no need for another gas station in this area, and the citizens of College Hill knew that and opposed it.
Update: At a news conference on June 8, 2022, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones stated Almuttan did not secure a tax abatement for the gas station property.
The gas station comes right up to four feet away from the house to the south, the legal maximum without getting a notarized waiver from the neighboring property owner. Almuttan did not want to pay commercial property taxes, which are much, much higher than residential, and thus according to the indictment, bribed Collins-Muhammad to get a tax abatement, keeping the taxes at the former vacant lot tax rate. And all of this was caught on tape, no doubt fulfilling Almuttan’s deal with federal prosecutors for lenient treatment in the cigarette bootlegging case. By the way, it looks like construction on the gas station has either temporarily stopped or has been abandoned.
Meanwhile, at this point according to his guilty plea, Collins-Muhammad also arranged for Almuttan to pay bribes to former President of the Board of Aldermen, Lewis Reed.
Update: In December of 2022, Almuttan donated the Geraldine property back to the LRA. The new 22nd Ward alderwoman Norma Walker, who was elected in a special election to replace Boyd, also filed a bill to repeal the tax abatement for the property.
According to the guilty plea, Almuttan was also looking for warehouse space, and determined that a property, which seems to be part of the old Bridge and Beach Factory in the Mark Twain industrial zone south of I-70 suited his needs. Collins-Muhammad arranged for his colleague Jeffrey Boyd, alderman of the 22nd Ward to instruct the Land Reutilization Authority (LRA) of St. Louis, which owned the property, to sell to Almuttan for a severely discounted price. The LRA’s mission is to sell property at the highest competitive price and to return the property back to the highest taxable rate to benefit city services. Again, Almuttan bribed Boyd to get another tax abatement.
Boyd was indicted in a separate case of attempted insurance fraud when he tried to help Almuttan recover money from automobiles damaged when a car crashed into his auto repair shop property on West Florissant in Jennings, according to the guilty plea
It’s a convoluted story, but Boyd agreed to help Almuttan collect the insurance money by back-dating the sale of the cars using his own used car lot which is located next to his banquet center in the Wellston Loop, inside the city limits in the 22nd Ward. It didn’t work but it’s still a crime even if you try and fail. Strangely, there were no actual cars in the dealership parking lot when I went by, and looking at Google Street View there were only a handful of cars when it was photographed a few years ago. When I’ve visited the area before, local residents wondered aloud to me where Boyd found all the money to fix up his own building when most of the others on the street were crumbling.