Monday, July 21, 2008


JOE MAHR AND JEREMY KOHLER, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH - During Labor Day weekend 2002, St. Louis city police responded shortly after midnight to an unusual call. The police chief's daughter, Aimie Mokwa, then 27, had crashed a car.

It was a car she didn't own. St. Louis police had seized it during a drug arrest and turned it over to a private company that holds a lucrative towing contract with the department. That company gave her free use of it.

The company has supplied her with more vehicles - until the Post-Dispatch began asking questions this spring and, police say, Chief Joe Mokwa ordered the firm to stop it.

That 2002 incident is at the heart of questions about what the chief knew about freebies his daughter received from a company his department fed thousands of tow jobs a year.

There are also questions about how many police officers received similar perks, and how the tow company gained so much business when the city had its own towing operations.

Beyond her getting free use of the car in 2002, the newspaper found that Aimie Mokwa bought three other vehicles from the company for less than half of their typical wholesale value - saving her more than $10,000 off what dealers could expect to pay for similar vehicles.

On Friday, the police department first acknowledged part of the arrangement. The next day, it began contradicting details in an investigative report from its own law firm on when the chief learned of the arrangement.

The law firm, Armstrong Teasdale, announced that Aimie Mokwa and a number of unnamed officers had been given free use of previously impounded vehicles owned by an arm of the private tow firm, St. Louis Metropolitan Towing.

In a 17-page report, the firm asserted that the chief did not learn of the practice until this spring, when he ordered a stop to the "largess."

But on Saturday, the president of the Board of Police Commissioners, Chris Goodson, said Chief Mokwa did know before this spring about his daughter driving formerly impounded cars. Goodson, though, could not say how long Mokwa knew about it. Still, he defended the chief, noting that Aimie Mokwa is not part of the department.


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