Federal subpoenas sought tax abatement records for two properties in north St. Louis

In August 2020, an SLDC agency that processes tax abatement had recommended the tax break for a new gas station on the Von Phul Street site, a vacant parcel near an Interstate 70 ramp by O’Fallon Park in north St.

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Re-posted from STL Today

Three federal subpoenas submitted to the St. Louis Development Corp. sought records related to two properties that were the subject of property tax abatement bills sponsored by former Alderman John Collins-Muhammad and Alderman Jeffrey Boyd.

The subpoenas, released Wednesday under an open records request, deal with two properties owned by Mohammad Almuttan, who was one of 35 people charged in a 2017 cigarette and synthetic marijuana trafficking sting. Almuttan co-owns and operates several gas stations and convenience stores in the St. Louis area. Most of his federal charges dismissed in April. His lawyer has not responded to requests for comment.

Collins-Muhammad, who was reelected last year to represent several north St. Louis neighborhoods near O’Fallon and Fairground parks, abruptly resigned from the board on May 12, saying in a message on Twitter that he has “made mistakes” and “the weeks ahead will be tough.” A source told the Post-Dispatch he was under investigation for bribery. Collins-Muhammad has not responded to requests for comment.

According to a May 10 subpoena requested by Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal Goldsmith, who leads public corruption prosecutions, federal investigators sought all records and communications from SLDC related to tax abatement at 5337 Von Phul Street, a property owned by a company tied to Almuttan.

In August 2020, an SLDC agency that processes tax abatement had recommended the tax break for a new gas station on the Von Phul Street site, a vacant parcel near an Interstate 70 ramp by O’Fallon Park in north St. Louis.

Collins-Muhammad sponsored a bill granting a tax break for the project but held it up before final votes by aldermen. A “Mike Almuttan” who listed an address that matches one of the Almuttan’s stores on North Florissant Avenue, made at least one $1,000 contribution to Collins-Muhammad in December 2020.

Two other subpoenas relate to a property at 4201R Geraldine Avenue, which Almuttan acquired in May 2021 from the St. Louis Land Reutilization Authority, the city’s land bank operated by SLDC staff. The LRA board had approved the sale to Almuttan in December 2020.

A subpoena requested on March 30 by Goldsmith sought all records and communications since Jan. 1, 2020, relating to the LRA’s sale of the property, a vacant industrial building in the Mark Twain I-70 Industrial area of north St. Louis.

A second subpoena dated April 1, also requested by Goldsmith, sought all records from SLDC related to tax abatement for the Geraldine Avenue property. The St. Louis Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority, which SLDC operates, had recommended 10 years of tax abatement for the property in November.

Boyd, who represents the area in northwest St. Louis, in December sponsored a property tax abatement bill for the Geraldine Avenue property, which passed the board in January. Boyd, who joined the board in 2003 and is one of its longest-serving members, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Wednesday evening.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment.

But on Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri sent out a media advisory saying there will be a “hearing of public interest” at 1 p.m. Thursday.

Collins-Muhammad planned to make an initial appearance Thursday in an indictment against him, according to a person familiar with the matter, though the charges against him weren’t clear.

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