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'Ghost' employee of St. Louis Treasurer's office sentenced to 2 years in prison

'Ghost' employee of St. Louis Treasurer's office sentenced to 2 years in prison

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ST. LOUIS • A fired worker in the St. Louis Treasurer’s Office was sentenced Tuesday to two years in federal prison for diverting hundreds of thousands of dollars from a now-defunct charter school and collecting a city paycheck as a “ghost employee.”

U.S. District Judge Audrey G. Fleissig also sentenced Fred W. Robinson, 71, to serve three years on probation after his release from prison.

Federal prosecutors had asked for between 46 and 57 months in prison, but the judge said Robinson’s age, poor health and lack of a criminal record factored into the sentence.

A federal jury in March convicted Robinson of charges of wire fraud and federal program theft that involved embezzling money from the Paideia Academy, a failed city charter school. Robinson was the chairman of the charter school’s board.

Robinson was indicted in 2011. He was accused of diverting about $240,000 from a now-defunct charter school and of collecting more than $175,000 from the city as a ghost employee.

Prosecutors alleged Robinson shifted state and federal education funds in Paideia’s accounts to pay a contractor to finish building the Little People’s day care at 4028 West Florissant Avenue before the charter school ran out of money. Prosecutors also said Robinson concealed from school officials his application for a license to run the day care as a side business.

The day care never opened.

Five other counts of federal program theft were related to his salary from 2006-10 under then-St. Louis Treasurer Larry Williams by filing bogus time sheets and collecting a paycheck.

Prosecutors said he earned a $35,360 city salary but never did any work for the treasurer’s office. He was supposed to drive city streets looking for parking-related problems, according to his boss’s testimony at Robinson’s trial.

Robinson’s conviction appears to mark the end of the investigation into Williams, who was never charged nor called as a witness in the case. Williams did not seek re-election last year. The city fired Robinson a few days after Treasurer Tishaura O. Jones took office in January.

Robinson showed no reaction to the sentence, and has maintained his innocence throughout the case.

He said he has contributed to the community and told the judge several former students he called his “babies” went on to earn full college scholarships.

“I shall continue to mentor young people and I shall continue to advocate better education for my babies,” he told the judge.

She didn’t seem to be buying it.

“He hasn’t learned anything as far as I’m concerned,” Fleissig said. “This defendant has no remorse.”

The judge Tuesday also ordered Robinson to pay back about $420,000 in restitution. She let Robinson leave the court on bail while his public defenders prepare to appeal the case.

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