Federal subpoenas despatched to St. Louis company that handles tax abatement | Legislation and order

ST. LOUIS — Federal investigators have subpoenaed records from the St. Louis Development Corp., the city agency that handles tax abatement and other development incentives, the Post-Dispatch has learned.

Multiple Department of Justice subpoenas were issued to the agencies that SLDC operates, a person familiar with the matter said Friday.

Dates and what exactly federal investigators were seeking from SLDC is unclear.

But the revelation that the feds are digging into records of the city’s development arm comes a day after former Alderman John Collins-Muhammad abruptly resigned his seat. He offered little explanation but asked for forgiveness for “my shortcomings and my mistakes.” A person familiar with the matter has said he is under investigation for bribery.

Among the agencies SLDC operates is the St. Louis Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority, which process property tax abatement applications for new construction projects. 

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Property owners who want a tax abatement also must win approval from the Board of Aldermen, and city tradition requires the aldermen who represents the ward where the project is located to sponsor the bill.

Collins-Muhammad, who represented the 21st Ward, an economically depressed north side area between O’Fallon Park and Fairground Park, did not carry many individual abatement bills compared to other wards with more construction activity.

One tax abatement bill he did sponsor last year was for a proposed gas station and convenience store on Von Phul Street. The property is owned by a company connected to Mohammed Almuttan, who was one of 35 people swept up in a 2017 cigarette and synthetic marijuana trafficking sting.

SLDC staff in 2020 recommended approval for the tax abatement. Collins-Muhammad sponsored a bill for the abatement but never brought it up for a final vote.

In 2021, he sponsored a bill for the gas station abatement again. He held it in committee, saying he would pursue a larger redevelopment area covering much of his ward. However, for the gas station project to receive tax abatement, it still would have needed a corresponding bill.

The government last month moved to dismiss most of the charges against Almuttan, which had still been pending from the 2017 sting. His lawyer has not responded to a request for comment. 

Collins-Muhammad did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

An official with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in St. Louis declined to comment.

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