Former East St. Louis Democratic party chairman Charlie Powell demolishes burnt buildings and keeps the valuable remains for himself, according to a suit in St. Clair County circuit court.

Mark Gates filed the suit on Nov. 17, claiming Powell and his demolition company converted property at 504 St. Louis Avenue from Gates to himself.

Powell was convicted in federal court in East St. Louis in 2005 for paying voters and conspiring to pay voters in the 2004 federal election. He was sentenced to 27 months in prison and ordered to pay a $2,500 fine.

Gates also sued city inspector Robert Betts as Powell’s friend and partner, writing that Betts likely received a kickback.

Gates’s lawyer, Penni Livingston of Fairview Heights, wrote that Powell either started a fire that damaged 504 and 506 St. Louis Avenue, or he had it started.

“Charlie Powell ruined these buildings,” she wrote.

Livingston wrote that Gates had invested about $25,000 in his building.

She wrote that upon information and belief, Powell has directly started fires or hired fires to be started in numerous commercial buildings in East St. Louis.

“The facts in this case appear to be part of a larger scheme to deprive multiple property owners of their properties by torching their buildings, getting a permit for demolition and then stealing the brick and steel and recyclable materials,” she wrote.

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