City board-up crew charged with burglary, fired from jobs -

City board-up crew charged with burglary, fired from jobs

ST. LOUIS ( -- Two St. Louis City workers are out of a job and in jail.  They are accused of breaking into a house that they were supposed to protect.

The employees were assigned to board up vacant homes, but police say the crew broke into one to steal.

The city has little doubt that its employees were the culprits, because the building division uses special screws to keep boards in place.  The city says their workers used the same screws to try to cover their tracks but that’s exactly what exposed this scheme.

John Smooths, 56, and Diamond Joshua, 53, were part of the city’s board-up crew—securing vacant houses so no one could break in.  Police say apparently that was also a perfect ruse to do it themselves.

“These are city workers that did this, and you trust city workers,” Iretha Powell said.

Powell was working on one of her rental properties across the street when her son spotted the city workers coming from inside her boarded-up house on Davison Avenue.  Police say the pair pried off the boards and forced open the basement door to get to valuable stained glass windows inside.

“They said they had an order to board up the property.  The property is already boarded up!” Powell said.  “They were in a city truck, in a city uniform and on city time.”

It all smelled fishy to Iretha.  She called the city, and sure enough, a work order for her property didn’t exist.  That’s when the city called police and fired the board-up crew.  Smooths and Joshua have each worked for the city for more than a decade.  Now, they’re out of a job and charged with burglary.  The city’s deputy building commissioner believes it’s unlikely the pair committed other crimes like this.

“I don’t think so, quite honestly, because all of our trucks have a GPS system that show exactly where our people are,” St. Louis City Deputy Building Commissioner Frank Oswald said.  “On that particular day, their truck was broke down so they had an extra truck that didn’t have a GPS system.”

The city agreed to pay for the damages their employees caused.

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