ST. LOUIS • The FBI and other agencies raided a St. Louis pizza restaurant and karate studio again Thursday amid allegations of neglect and dangerous conditions at a youth shelter there.
St. Louis police referred questions to the FBI. An FBI spokeswoman confirmed only that agents were there “for a law enforcement purpose.”
In court documents, investigators have said they found underage girls who were living and working in the building because their parents were either homeless or in jail. The number of girls and their ages were not specified.
They were not being paid and not given proper food, despite government funding for lunches that went to a faith-based school program there, the documents say. The girls were said to have untreated lice, bed bugs and sprains.
Also, there were firearms “accessible to the minors,” police claimed in the documents.
DoJo Pizza owner Loren Copp could not be reached for comment Thursday. No criminal charges have been filed.
He previously told KTVI Fox 2 News that he lived in the building with his own children but had to close the business because of code violations.
He also said then that a child endangerment allegation against him involved a gun in his bedroom.
Officials visited twice in mid-October in response to a child endangerment complaint made in a hotline call to the Children’s Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services, the documents show.
The St. Louis Building Division condemned the structure Oct. 16, after inspectors found problems including infestations of rodents and insects, damage to the building, missing smoke detectors and electrical work done without a permit.
Officials also complained that the building was being used as a rooming house without the proper permits, and used for a purpose that could endanger occupants, according to a copy of the condemnation letter.
The building, a former church, was raided by St. Louis police and others on Oct. 23. Neighbors said boxes were carried out that day. Court documents show that investigators seized computers, a cellphone and files.
City records show that the building is owned by the Ma-ji Ryu Christian Karate Association Inc., which Missouri secretary of state records show was incorporated in 2007 by Copp. It was dissolved by the state in May.
Copp is a former pastor and builder with a history of failed financial dealings in Southern Illinois and the St. Louis area. He was the subject of a 2011 Post-Dispatch report about the expansion of the Southwest Christian Church, near Fenton, and plans for a new school.
Copp later left the church, which was by then mired in debt.
The DoJo Pizza website says the business operates as a nonprofit to support free karate classes with proceeds and donations. The building doubled as a sort of community center, neighbors said last month.