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Kinloch mayor pleads guilty to embezzlement, witness tampering

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 23, 2011 - Federal authorities have announced that Kinloch Mayor Keith Conway has "entered a guilty plea to charges of using Kinloch city funds to pay personal expenses, fund personal travel, and purchase a Florida vacation condominium timeshare." Conway also pleaded guilty to pressing Kinloch officials to lie to federal investigators.

According to the U.S. attorney's office, Conway " stole, diverted and embezzled city funds" between January 2009 through this past March.

Conway, 47, pleaded to one felony count of wire fraud, one felony count of federal program funds theft and one felony count of witness tampering before United States District Judge Rodney W. Sippel, federal officials said. Sentencing has been set for November 18.

Conway faces sentences of up to 20 years in prision, and fines up to $250,000.

The mayor used the money, federal authorities say, "to pay for several personal Bahamas vacation cruises, airline tickets to Las Vegas and Ft. Lauderdale for himself and friends, the down payment and loan payments on a time-share condominium in South Florida, personal credit card bills, personal federal income taxes, as well as Ameren electric bills for a city owned residence where he was living rent free."

"Further, following his original indictment on the fraud and embezzlement charges, and while on bond, Conway provided false information to Kinloch city officials including several members of the Board of Aldermen relative to the criminal charges pending against him and urged those officials to provide false information about those charges," the U.S. attorney's office added.

Conway was originally indicted on fraud charges in May, with the additional witness-tampering charge added in June.

"Mr. Conway finally admitted he stole money from his own community when the City of Kinloch couldn't even afford to pay its employees," said Special Agent in Charge Dennis L. Baker of the FBI St. Louis Division. "After he was indicted, he lied about the city owing him money to try to cover up his selfish crimes."

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.