ST. LOUIS – U.S. District Judge Matthew T. Schelp on July 27 sentenced a former supervisory motor vehicle inspector with the Missouri State Highway Patrol to 15 months in prison for taking thousands of dollars in cash bribes.
Judge Schelp also ordered Larry S. Conrad, 67, to perform 100 hours of community service and pay a $20,000 fine, part of which represented the bribe money that he’d already spent.
At his guilty plea in April, Conrad admitted accepting a total of about $14,020 in individual bribes of $40 to $160 to falsify forms and approve inspections of vehicles that had been damaged and had salvage titles or were listed as “abandoned,” even if he never saw the vehicle.
Conrad “bypassed the entire safety system that was put in place by the state of Missouri and the Missouri State Highway Patrol to ensure that vehicles were safe to operate on our roads,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal Goldsmith said during Thursday’s hearing, “potentially placing unwitting drivers and other motorists in harm’s way.”
In a sentencing memorandum, Goldsmith wrote that Conrad accepted hundreds of bribes over at least six months before being caught.
After receiving a tip about Conrad’s conduct, investigators recorded Conrad taking cash bribes that had been placed in the driver’s side door pocket, the memo says. When he was approached by law enforcement on Sept. 29, 2022, Conrad lied and denied accepting any cash payments that day. After being told that there was audio and video evidence of the bribes, Conrad admitted accepting a small amount of cash, and took it out of his pocket. Pressed further, Conrad admitted accepting additional bribes that day, and took cash out of his pants pockets five different times, eventually admitting that he had taken $610 that day, the memo says. After falsely claiming that he kept money from other bribes in a safe, Conrad made a full confession and allowed the FBI to retrieve $6,565 in envelopes that he’d stashed underneath the rear seat of his personal truck.
Conrad issued passing motor vehicle inspections and certified motor vehicles which he had not even physically inspected, including at least one that was so “substantially damaged as not being in working and driving condition,” Goldsmith wrote. His actions “allowed for the sale of vehicles, some of which had latent and undisclosed damage, to unsuspecting individuals who unwittingly trusted that defendant and the Highway Patrol had conducted proper inspections,” Goldsmith wrote.
Conrad’s primary duty was to perform motor vehicle inspections at the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Troop C facility in south St. Louis County. There is no fee for the inspections. If the vehicle passes, an inspector signs and certifies forms required for motor vehicle owners to apply for original Missouri Certificates of Title.
Conrad pleaded guilty to one felony charge of using a facility in interstate commerce, a cellular telephone, to facilitate his bribery scheme.
The case was investigated by the FBI, with the cooperation of the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal Goldsmith prosecuted the case.