ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- A contractor for the St. Louis City Treasurer's Office parking division paid ghost employees and the blackmailer who found out about it. Now the scheme is crashing down. The blackmailer pleaded guilty in federal court on Friday. One person has already gone down for the crime.
"Guilty, Your Honor." That's how Frank Habeebullah, 32, pleaded to the litany of damaging information put before a federal judge on Friday afternoon.
According to federal court records, when Habeebullah learned of a scheme to defraud the city treasurer's office and you, the taxpayer, he decided that he wanted a cut of the action.
The city treasurer's office contracts with a company called Duncan Solutions to fix parking meters and collect revenue. Milwaukee-based Duncan Solutions then hired Dankar Enterprises, which is owned by Danielle Welch Benson, to do the day-to-day work. In August, she pleaded guilty to padding the payroll by listing employees who didn't exist or didn't work. Frank Habeebullah oversaw the Duncan Solutions contract with her. He was an operations manager for the St. Louis office.
When Habeebullah caught on to Welch Benson's scheme, he didn't report her. Instead, he asked for a piece of the pie. Habeebullah created a fake company to do no work for real pay. He walked away with $59,000 before this scheme came crashing down. Habeebullah's attorney, Steve Welby, says his client will now have to pay it all back and could go to federal prison for a few years. Habeebullah also resigned from Duncan Solutions, which the feds call a victim in this case.
More charges against other fake employees are pending.
I also discovered that Danielle Welch Benson still holds a contract with ACS, another contractor the city treasurer's office uses. A spokesperson for the company says ACS is in the process of terminating that contract. ACS was not part of the fraud.
ACS Corporate Communications Manager Chris Gilligan sent me the following statement when I inquired about Welch Benson's contract:
"We are in the process of terminating our contract with Dankar. We are finalizing a transition plan to ensure that the City and public will continue to receive quality service. When we first contracted with them approximately eight years ago, we examined their background and found no issues. Our investigation into their activities under our contract will continue. They previously provided customer service for the parking violations bureau; the work Dankar performed for us was not part of the federal indictment."