ST. LOUIS (KMOV) – The former owner of a Clayton construction company pleaded guilty this week to two counts of wire fraud for violating St. Louis minority business participation requirements to qualify for a tax allowance.

Court documents allege that Brian Kowert Sr., along with minority business owner Charles Kirkwood, agreed to falsely list Kirkwood’s company as supplying materials for a project Kowert was working on in St. Louis. Tampering would allow the perceived 25% stake of a minority business enterprise, which would qualify for a 10-year tax deduction.

Kowert was co-owner and COO of HBD Construction Inc. Kirkwood owns Midwestern Construction. The project implicated in the charges against Kowert was the renovation and redevelopment of a building for Greater Goods LLC on Chouteau Avenue, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

Prosecutors allege Kowert covered up its violations by awarding two subcontracts to the Kirkwood company for work and materials that were performed by two other companies that are not minority business ventures. Kowert also issued a purchase order to the Kirkwood company for materials supplied by a third, also non-minority, company.

Prosecutors allege Kowert paid Kirkwood approximately $2,000 for assisting him in the fraudulent act. The Kowert company issued 14 checks totaling $220,000 to the Kirkwood company for work allegedly done by three other companies.

Kowert’s sentencing is scheduled for April 26. The two wire fraud charges carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

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