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Press Release

St. Louis County Executive Pleads Guilty to Pay to Play Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Missouri

St. Louis, MO – Steven V. Stenger, 47, of Clayton, pleaded guilty today on three counts of honest services bribery/mail fraud in front of U.S. District Court Judge Catherine D. Perry, who set his sentencing hearing on August 9, 2019.

According to court documents, beginning in October 2014 and continuing through December 31, 2018, Stenger and various individuals and companies schemed to defraud and deprive the citizens of St. Louis County of their right to his honest and faithful services, and the honest and faithful services of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership’s Chief Executive Officer, through bribery and the concealment of material information.  The purpose of the scheme was for Stenger to secretly use his official position to enrich himself through soliciting and accepting campaign contributions from individuals and their companies in exchange for favorable official action, and for individuals and their companies to enrich themselves and their companies by secretly obtaining favorable action for themselves and for their companies, through corrupt means. 

Specifically, Stenger, in exchange for campaign donations and several fundraising events, took official action to ensure that John Rallo and his company, Cardinal Insurance, obtained insurance contracts through St. Louis County during 2015 and 2016.  Further, the Indictment alleges that Stenger took official action to ensure that John Rallo and his company, Cardinal Creative Consulting, obtained a 2016 consulting contract through the St. Louis County Port Authority.  Additionally, Stenger took official action to ensure that John Rallo and his company, Wellston Holdings, LLC, obtained options to purchase two properties in Wellston, Missouri, which were held by the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority of St. Louis County during 2016 and 2017.  The Indictment also alleges that Stenger, in exchange for campaign donations and fundraising activities, took official action to ensure that “Company One,” as set forth in the Indictment, obtained a 2019 - 2021 state lobbying contract from the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership.  The Indictment alleges that Stenger took steps to hide, conceal and cover up his illegal conduct and actions, including making false public statements.

Today’s guilty plea is the result of an investigation that began during March 2018 and remains active and ongoing.  Following today’s guilty plea, Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Reginald Harris noted, “The events of this week, including the unsealing of the Grand Jury’s Indictment; the resignation of the defendant as St. Louis County Executive; and, today, the defendant’s guilty plea to all charges in the Indictment, should send a message that the Department of Justice and federal law enforcement will not tolerate public corruption at any level of government.”

Harris added, “The people deserve and are entitled to honest services, and trust in their elected officials.  And when those elected officials abuse the people’s trust, they will be held accountable and there will be consequences.”

"Steve Stenger benefitted himself at the expense of St. Louis County citizens by accepting financial gain in exchange for official action," said Special Agent in Charge Richard Quinn of the FBI St. Louis Division. "The FBI will continue to investigate and hold accountable public officials who betray the trust of the St. Louis communities they serve. Our citizens deserve nothing less."

If convicted, each charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.  Restitution is also mandatory.  In determining the actual sentences, a judge is required to consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide recommended sentencing ranges.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Postal Inspection Service are investigating this case with the assistance of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal Goldsmith is handling the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Updated April 18, 2023

Public Corruption