James Morgan: St. Louis Liquor Agent Gets Five Years in Prison; Solicited Bribes From Bar

James Morgan, a former St. Louis liquor control officer charged last year with trying to shakedown the owners of a Soulard bar, was sentenced to five years in prison today with the addition of five months of home confinement and two years of supervised release once he's released.

Morgan pleaded guilty in November to the bribery charge. As Riverfront Times documented last September, the bar owners who Morgan tried to extort were the Trupianos, owners of Lure Nightclub that City Hall blamed last summer for a spate of violence and disturbances along Washington Avenue.

An excerpt from that article:
According to the feds, Morgan approached the Trupianos with a deal: If they made him manager of their new bar in Soulard (Soulard Social House) for a $60,000 salary and threw in $10,000 for a new car, he'd expedite their liquor license application and prevent future investigations.

Morgan's mistake, according to (Trupianos' attorney Freeman) Bosley Jr., was floating this idea within earshot of an off-duty police officer working for the Trupianos. He blew the whistle, and soon the feds had amassed wiretap recordings of Morgan making the necessary arrangements.

St. Louis liquor commissioner Kraiberg describes Morgan as a good employee, but one who pretended to have more pull than he really did.

"I was very surprised and disappointed," the commissioner says. Still, the timing of these events seemed remarkable. Was the city cracking down on the Trupianos in retaliation for their assistance with Morgan's indictment?

"How all those things lined up in the universe is beyond me," Kraiberg says. "Totally and purely coincidental."

So why the focus on Lure?

Rainford, the mayor's chief of staff, says he now defers to Kraiberg's department in the matter. But as for Lure, he says, "It's not like every other club is like this."

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