Former St. Louis-area CEO admits embezzling millions to fund lavish lifestyle
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
ST. LOUIS — Business executive Dunard Morris was always a storyteller. He also had a fondness for a lush life of luxury cars, expensive firearms, Swiss watches, fine meals and international travel.
On Friday, Morris, 49, acknowledged in federal court here that his craving for extreme wealth may have cost his former employer $2.5 million or more.
Morris pleaded guilty to two counts of mail fraud and one of wire fraud, admitting an “extensive embezzlement” from Chesterfield-based Metropolitan Urological Specialists.
He spent hundreds of thousands at restaurants like Il Bel Lago in Creve Coeur, Annie Gunn’s in Chesterfield, Momo’s Ouzaria Taverna in University City and the Kaffee Haus at Schneithorst’s in Ladue, where he held court for hours.
He picked up huge tabs for colleagues and strangers and tipped lavishly on extravagant meals and French wine.
Il Bel Lago co-owner Camelo Gabriele told a reporter earlier this year that Morris charged $2,000 to $3,000 per month on a corporate American Express card for a decade, and spent $10,000 a month from April 2011 until mid-September of that year, when his former company called to say that he didn’t work there anymore.
Although Morris and his fourth wife, Donna, bought a four-bedroom home with a swimming pool on Windcastle Drive in St. Charles for $875,000 in 2007, prosecutors said he also kept a luxury suite at Mansions on the Plaza in University City, paying the $5,400-a-month rent with company money.
Morris covered it up by misstating internal financial reports, underpaying taxes to free up cash and making false statements to shareholders about how he paid for his lifestyle.
At the time, Morris was in charge of business and financial operations for Metropolitan Urological, which has offices in Crestwood, Florissant and Creve Coeur and on the campuses of Mercy Hospital St. Louis, St. Luke’s Hospital in Chesterfield and Mercy Hospital Washington.
A spokesman for the practice, James Crowe III, declined to answer questions about the case but offered thanks to prosecutors and the FBI for “bringing Dunard Morris to justice.”
Morris was indicted Feb. 29 on six charges, including violation of the “stolen valor” law by pretending to be a war hero. Prosecutors dismissed that count after the U.S. Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional.
At sentencing Dec. 14, Morris faces more than five years in prison under federal guidelines. At the sentencing hearing, he may dispute the amount taken.
Morris had been out on bail. But U.S. District Judge Rodney Sippel ordered him jailed Friday, citing concern that Morris might not appear in court later or might harm himself. The judge also cited Morris’ “consistent inability” to tell court staff the truth.
At the start of the hearing, Morris said he took a variety of medications and suffered from depression and bipolar disorder.
Relatives described Morris as a storyteller from an earlier age, and a recent resume seems to back that up.
The Post-Dispatch was unable to verify a series of his claims, including a master of science degree in health care administration from St. Louis University, a bachelor of science degree in business administration, magna cum laude, from the University of Arizona in Tucson, and a candidacy for a “Master of Science Health Policy & Economics” degree at the London School of Economics.
Morris also claimed to have attained the rank of sergeant in the Marine Corps during two tours of duty. And prosecutors say he falsely claimed to have won the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism during the Persian Gulf War.
But military records don’t show that rank, that award or his second tour. He was demoted from lance corporal to private and discharged from the Marines “under other than honorable conditions,” prosecutors claim.
The military says he never served in a foreign country.