EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. -- The police chief and the director of regulatory affairs were among four people arrested Friday as part of a federal corruption investigation into the government of this impoverished Mississippi River city.
Indictments against the regulatory affairs director, Kelvin Ellis, and police chief Ronald Matthews were unrelated, but both men were arrested within hours of each other, and the arrests were announced during a news conference involving officials from several federal agencies.
Ellis, 55, was accused of seeking to have a federal witness killed. According to the indictment, when Ellis learned that a woman had helped federal authorities investigating alleged election fraud, Ellis first tried to have crack cocaine planted on her, then tried to have the woman killed.
He was also charged with tax evasion.
"The citizens of East St. Louis are entitled to public officials who respect and uphold the rule of law," U.S. Attorney Ronald Tenpas said.
The arrests followed investigations aimed at rooting out corruption in East St. Louis and elsewhere on the Illinois side of the St. Louis area.
"Time will tell if this is a widespread problem," Tenpas said.
Meanwhile, Matthews, 55, his secretary Janerra Carson-Slaughter, 28, and businessman Ayoub Qattoum, 40, of Belleville, Ill., were accused of obstructing justice. Additional counts charged Qattoum with being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Police allegedly confiscated the gun but gave it back to him in violation of the law. All three were indicted for hindering an investigation into the incident.
There were no phone listings for any of the four people arrested. An official with the U.S. District Court in East St. Louis said she was unsure of the names of their attorneys.
Mayor Carl Officer did not return a phone call seeking comment but told KSDK-TV he was "embarrassed for the citizens."
"I'm hurt for some of the families of the individuals," Officer said. "I'm a little perplexed that some of these men and women I've known for most of my life would put themselves in this type of situation."