The head of the St. Louis city parks department has apologized for an elaborate fraud in which two high-level employees stole nearly $465,000 from the city.
"We know that we are the stewards of an incredible legacy, and stewards of the taxpayers' money," Gary Bess told the parks committee. "We want their trust, and know that we have to earn it. That's why I'm as disappointed as anyone that this has happened. On behalf of everyone in the administration, and the parks department, I'd like to apologize. It's not who we are."
Two former St. Louis Parks Division officials have pleaded guilty to embezzling over $400,000 from the Parks Division.
The U.S. Attorney's Office of the Eastern District of Missouri says Joseph Vacca, former deputy commissioner of the St. Louis Parks Division, and Thomas Stritzel, former chief of the St. Louis Park Rangers pleaded guilty to the charges. According to the Attorney's office, it was through a system of false invoices that the two men acquired the money and used it for personal expenses including automobile leases, credit card payments and other items.