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State Rep. Bowman indicted in bank fraud scheme

State Rep. John Bowman (D-St. Louis)


Jefferson City, MO – Missouri State Representative John Bowman (D-St. Louis) has been indicted with 16 others in a bank fraud scheme.

Former Bank of America Vice President Robert Conner is accused of taking kickbacks for getting Bowman and others to submit fake credit card applications.

Bowman is accused of getting cash from the fraudulent credit line, and also charging a thousand dollars in goods to the card.

According to the indictment, unsealed Monday, former Bank of America Vice President Robert Conner recruited Bowman and others to submit false applications for small-business credit cards. The indictment accuses Conner of receiving kickback payments.

Bowman, 50, is chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus. He was not at his Capitol office Monday and could not immediately be reached for comment at other telephone numbers.

But Bowman's attorney defended the lawmaker's intentions in the alleged scheme.

"It would be our position that he made an unfortunate choice by doing business with an individual, and I would characterize him as more of a victim than anything else," attorney Scott Rosenblum told KMOX.

The indictment alleges Bowman met with Conner at a Bank of America branch office in Chesterfield in January 2006 and submitted a fraudulent credit application in the name of Bowman Consulting.

Bowman is accused of obtaining a $4,050 cash advance using the fraudulent credit line at a St. Louis bank branch, and also of obtaining things in value of $1,000 during a one-year period.

As part of the general scheme, the indictment alleges that credit applicants misrepresented the names of their businesses, the amount of time they had been in operation or their annual income in order to appear worthy of receiving credit.

Conner then had the credit cards sent to him, rather than to the borrowers, so that he could receive a cash kickback of $2,500 to $5,000 from each borrower before turning the cards over to them, the indictment alleges. The first transaction on the credit cards was a cash advance, the proceeds of which were used for the kickback, the indictment says.

More than $1.2 million in charges also were made on the fraudulently approved cards, the indictment said.

Bank of America security systems detected the allegedly fraudulent activities early last year, and bank officials then contacted federal and local law enforcement, said Alex Liftman, a spokeswoman for the Charlotte, N.C.-based bank. Conner is no longer employed by the bank, she said.

"This is fraud that was perpetrated against the bank and there is no evidence to suggest the activities compromise the security or privacy of our customers," Liftman said.

The indictment was announced by the St. Louis office of U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway, a Republican and former House speaker who served in the Legislature with Bowman for two years.

House Minority Leader Jeff Harris, D-Columbia, said none of the accusations appears to involve Bowman's role as a representative. He represents the 70th district, which includes part of north St. Louis County.

"It appears that the alleged activity took place outside of Jefferson City in his personal life," Harris said. "These are obviously serious charges, and the criminal justice system will certainly run its course on them."

St. Louis Democratic Sen. Rita Heard Days, a member of the Legislative Black Caucus, said word of the indictment had been circulating through the Capitol, which is how she heard of it.

"I feel very sympathetic for John and his family, and it's important to remember the premise that in this country you are innocent until proven guilty," she said.

House Majority Whip Brian Nieves said he doubted Bowman's indictment would have a significant political effect in the House.

"It shouldn't have any impact until we know absolutely, for sure what the final judgment is," said Nieves (R-Washington). "There are a lot of things that can happen between now and then."


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