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Press Release

Aldi Executive and Southern Illinois Contractor Plead Guilty to Rigging Construction Project Bids

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Illinois
Lauren Barry, Public Affairs Officer

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – A former Aldi executive and a general contractor from Breese, Illinois, admitted guilt to federal fraud offenses which involved rigging the bid system for construction projects of grocery stores throughout southern Illinois and Missouri.

Louis R. Ross, Sr., 64, of St. Louis, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, four counts of mail fraud and four counts of wire fraud. Donald E. Schniers, 73, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, one count of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud.

“By colluding in the bid process, the co-defendants enriched themselves by defrauding Aldi out of millions of dollars,” said U.S. Attorney Rachelle Aud Crowe.

According to court documents, Ross was the Director of Real Estate for Aldi’s O’Fallon, Missouri, Division, and Schniers owned C. Juengel Company out of Breese, Illinois. Schniers, through C. Juengel, provided general contracting services including construction and renovation to Aldi stores within Ross’s division. 

From at least February 2014 through March 2018, Ross and Schniers conspired to create a faux competitive bidding environment for construction projects. Schniers admitted to completing false bid forms under the guise of other construction companies without their knowledge or consent.

“In his attempt for personal gain, Louis Ross’s actions undermined competitive contracting practices, which in turn affect the price consumers pay for goods and services,” said FBI Springfield Field office Acting Special Agent in Charge Joe Rodriguez. “The FBI, along with our law enforcement partners, prioritizes efforts to expose corruption and investigate illegal practices.”

The fictitious bids always included higher amounts than C. Juengel’s, which led to C. Juengel being awarded the projects. Using the rigged bidding system, C. Juengel was awarded 12 contracts for general contractor services valued at approximately $20 million. 

Ross and Schniers also manipulated the bidding process by altering legitimate bids submitted by another construction company. Due to the stifled competition, Aldi overpaid for the projects and suffered an approximate loss greater than $2.8 million.

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is charged with defending the nation’s mail system from illegal use. With the collaborative efforts of our federal law enforcement partners, Postal Inspectors investigate fraudsters who utilize the U.S. Mail to perpetuate financial schemes to defraud others in order to enrich themselves. Postal Inspectors seek justice for victims, including the multiple individual consumer and business victims in this investigation,” said Inspector in Charge Ruth Mendonça who leads the Chicago Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which includes the St. Louis Field Office.

For his role in the conspiracy, Schniers paid Ross monthly kickbacks totaling $554,000 from C. Juengel’s bank account.

Under the sentencing guidelines, each of the counts carry a maximum term of 20 years’ imprisonment. Ross’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 16 and Schniers’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 17, both at the federal courthouse in East St. Louis.

The FBI Springfield and St. Louis Field Offices and the St. Louis Field Office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service are contributing to the investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Zoe Gross with the Southern District of Illinois and Trial Attorney Andrew Rosa with the Department of Justice, Antitrust Division, Chicago Office are prosecuting the case. 

Updated May 31, 2024