City of St. Louis hires man who embezzled $500k from high school scholarship program at St. Louis University

A man who was convicted of embezzling more than half a million dollars from St. Louis University was hired by the city of St. Louis according to an exposé by KMOV-TV.

Bretton DeLaria was awarded the “Young Alumni Award” by the university’s communications department in 2019 after he oversaw $50,000 in scholarships for high school students to earn college credits. He was fired from the position in June the following year.

‘It makes sense that someone with a criminal record … would be part of a group of people who have that street cred.’

In 2022, DeLaria pleaded guilty to five felony wire fraud charges and admitted to stealing $518k from the college. DeLaria would submit false invoices and have the money sent to accounts he had set up through PayPal. He used part of the money to help construct a new pool at his home at Benton Park West.

“Saint Louis University is outraged by the acts admitted to by Bretton DeLaria in federal court,” said officials from the school at the time. “The University will not tolerate theft or other illegal activity by anyone in its community.”

DeLaria agreed to forfeit his home, pay back the money, and was then sentenced to nearly two years in prison. He was released from prison in Sept. 2023.

Despite the fraud conviction, DeLaria was hired by the city of St. Louis as the public information officer for the Office of Violence Prevention, which is run by the Public Safety Department.

KMOV spoke to Benjamin Singer of the “Show Me Integrity” group that advocates for transparency in government. He said DeLaria’s conviction might give him “street cred” in his new position.

“It makes sense that someone with a criminal record, who’s in the process of getting back on their feet and being an upstanding member of society, would be part of a group of people who have that street cred,” Singer told KMOV.

He went on to express some concern, however, that officials make certain that DeLaria had no access to taxpayer funds in his new position. KMOV reported that the city told reporters DeLaria was not handling money, but officials refused an interview request about the subject.

DeLaria has a salary of about $60,000 and a condition of his probation is that he’s not allowed to have a job that involves handling money.

KMOV said both the city and DeLaria have refused requests about what qualifications led to his new employment.

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