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ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis development official is on leave after a federal indictment claimed he and others stole from an East St. Louis nonprofit, a spokesman said Tuesday.

The St. Louis Development Corp.'s director of Neighborhood Business Development, Leonard Johnson, 33, was indicted in U.S. District Court in East St. Louis in October and accused of receiving payments as part of a kickback scheme from the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House, which provides services to children and families.

The indictment alleges that from the summer of 2016 to the summer of 2017, the nonprofit's former executive director, Christopher K. Coleman, sent a total of $24,000 to Johnson's company, JCS Consulting Services LLC, "for which no services or property was received.” Johnson then kicked money back to Coleman, and lied about it in February to federal agents, according to the indictment.

Johnson has pleaded not guilty to charges of aiding the embezzlement and making a false statement to the Southern Illinois Public Corruption Task Force. His lawyer, Nicholas Williams, declined comment Tuesday. 

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Johnson's hiring at the SLDC was announced in April 2018. The announcement said he spent the previous five years as deputy chief of staff and parking programs coordinator for the St. Louis Treasurer’s Office. It said he managed a $2.5 million annual grant for AmeriCorps in East St. Louis before that.

A spokesman told the Post-Dispatch on Tuesday that Johnson is on leave from the SLDC, a not-for-profit that boosts economic development.

Coleman, 42, of Troy, Illinois, pleaded guilty to a federal embezzlement charge in August and admitted creating false invoices to trigger payments of more than $250,000 to a company he owned.

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