A former St. Louis elected official was indicted this week on a federal mail fraud charge stemming from allegations that he misspent campaign funds.
Grand jurors returned the indictment against Larry Arnowitz, 66, one day after he resigned as alderman, citing “personal reasons.” His defense lawyer, Patrick Conroy, previously said that Arnowitz “made a mistake” and would make “full restitution,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Arnowitz turned himself in Wednesday and will be released on his own recognizance.
During a brief hearing, Arnowitz told U.S. Magistrate Judge Shirley Padmore Mensah that he understood the charge and the potential penalties. He is scheduled to return to court on March 11 to enter a plea.
The U.S. attorney’s office said in a news release that Arnowitz used funds from his political campaign accounts to pay for personal expenses — including making payments towards his home mortgage — from June 2015 through February 2019. The release said he then filed false reports with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
“Alderman Arnowitz abused the trust of many individuals and organizations that contributed to his political campaign fund for several years,” U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen said in the release. “This type of corruption by our elected officials will not be tolerated, and federal law enforcement will continue to investigate and prosecute these types of criminal schemes in order to insure the integrity of our political processes.”
Conroy said the amount involved is approximately $20,000.
“He just buried his daughter right before Thanksgiving. It couldn’t come at a worse time for him and his family,” Conroy said. “It’s a very sad day for his family and the city.”
Conroy declined to comment after Wednesday’s hearing, as did Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal Goldsmith.
Arnowitz, who was serving his third four-year term on the St. Louis Board of Alderman, was chairman of its Health and Human Services Committee. His resignation leaves the 29-person board two members short. A fellow alderman died last week after a long illness.
If convicted, Arnowitz faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.