Updated at 5:15 p.m., May 10 with Sheila Sweeney's guilty plea — Two people who figured prominently in the political corruption scandal that brought down former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger have been charged as well.
John Rallo, an insurance executive who allegedly received county contracts in exchange for campaign contributions to Stenger, was charged Friday with bribery, mail fraud and honest services fraud, the same charges that Stenger pleaded guilty to last week. Sheila Sweeney, the former head of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, pleaded guilty to covering up the scheme, and not telling law enforcement about it.
Rallo was the first of the two to appear at the Thomas Eagleton Federal Courthouse in St. Louis, pleading not guilty to the three charges. He declined to comment after leaving the courthouse. A future court date has not been set.
Sweeney stood in front of U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry about six hours later to admit to a single felony count of misprision of a felony, or knowing about a felony and taking a step to conceal it.
“Miss Sweeney is profoundly remorseful for her conduct and she looks forward to doing everything she possibly can to make amends,” her attorney, Justin Gelfand, said in a statement after her appearance.
The plea agreement contained no information about any cooperation Sweeney might be offering prosecutors. She will be sentenced Aug. 16 — based on federal guidelines, she’s likely to face about a year in prison, although Perry does not have to follow those guidelines.
U.S. attorney Hal Goldsmith declined to comment, citing an ongoing investigation.
The cases unsealed Friday by the U.S. attorney’s office add more detail to a pay-to-play scheme that had been outlined in the case against Stenger. They make it clear exactly how involved the former county executive was in ensuring that Rallo received county business in exchange for his donations, and how willing of a partner Sweeney was in making that happen.
It was Sweeney who, as head of the Partnership, steered a $130,000 consulting contract to Rallo despite the fact that he had no marketing experience. Rallo allegedly did no work under the contract, and directed some of the money to two individuals who are listed only by their initials — S.W., who first introduced Rallo and Stenger, and J.C., a political operative who helped Stenger with get-out-the-vote efforts.
Sweeney was ousted from that job in January, several months after the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on that contract and other questionable bidding practices at the Partnership.
Rallo’s indictment also shows how Sweeney maneuvered to make sure that his real estate company, Wellston Holdings LLC, was able to purchase two pieces of industrial property near the St. Louis County and Municipal Police Academy. She set the minimum bid for both sites at levels she believed only Rallo and his associates could meet, told them when they needed to make changes to meet the requirements in the bid, and worked with attorneys to make sure Rallo’s bid would be allowed even though he submitted it late.
Read the indictment of John Rallo:
Read Sheila Sweeney's guilty plea:
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