ST. LOUIS, MO (KPLR) - A source of cash for St. Louis turned into taxpayer fleecing. Now two people are going to prison for it. It's tied to parking meters in St. Louis and the private companies brought in to manage them.
For months, we`ve been trying to get answers from Treasurer Larry Williams, who we showed is a virtual no show at work. The Feds called his employee Fred Robinson a "ghost employee." And Assistant Treasurer Steve Baker flipped me off when I asked about an outsourced contract.
It's that outsourced contract that's tied to Dannielle Welch-Benson. She admitted bilking taxpayers for about a quarter of a million dollars in "fake contracts" involving the management of parking meters. She did it under her consulting form Dankar Enterprises.
Instead of taking responsibility during her court sentencing, Welch-Benson said "I was working under the direction of others that I trusted." A Judge ordered her to repay $223,546.80 she admitted stealing. The Judge sentenced her to 27 months in prison, then allowed her to leave court to turn herself in.
That's when I approached her. (Chris Hayes asked) "Ms. Welch-Benson, I just wanted to ask, you said you were working under the direction of others you trusted. Who`s direction?" An unknown individual said, "No comment."
Welch-Benson hid behind family members when I followed up. "Are they still working for the St. Louis City Treasurer's office? Are taxpayers still paying for fake contracts?" She had no comment as she climbed into the back of a Mercury utility vehicle.
Welch-Benson also admitted paying hush money to another independent contractor who found out about her sham and wanted in. The Judge ordered that independent contractor, Frank Habeebullah, to six months in prison for his admitted role.
St. Louis City will soon see a new Treasurer in the top spot. Larry Williams retired and Tishaura Jones won the November election. Jones ran on a campaign of real transparency and real change.