Friday, October 30, 2020

Associate of former St. Louis County exec Stenger sentenced in bribery scheme

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A businessman who admitted to providing bribes as part of a pay-to-play scandal that led to the downfall of St. Louis County’s former top elected official was sentenced Thursday to nearly a year and a half in federal prison.

John Rallo, 54, pleaded guilty in July to three bribery counts as part of a scheme involving former Democratic St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, who pleaded guilty in May to corruption charges for providing political favors in exchange for campaign donations. He is serving a sentence of nearly four years in prison. Two others also pleaded guilty to federal crimes as part of the scheme.

Stenger’s activities had been under investigation for well over a year by the FBI, IRS and U.S. Postal Service before he was indicted in April. The county executive is the top elected official in St. Louis County, Missouri’s largest county with about 1 million residents.

Stenger admitting taking actions to ensure county contracts went to two Rallo-owned companies — Cardinal Insurance and Cardinal Creative Consulting — and ensuring Rallo’s Wellston Holdings LLC obtained options to buy two properties held by the county’s Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority.

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Rallo’s indictment said he gave Stenger tens of thousands of dollars in donations with the understanding his companies would get contracts.

In addition to the federal case, Rallo last year was ordered by Missouri’s securities commissioner to repay $1.2 million to six investors and pay a $30,000 civil penalty. The state said Rallo sought investors in a company he said would sell coconut powder to Costco and Sam’s Club as a food product sweetener. The state claimed Rallo largely used the investments for his other businesses.

Sheila Sweeney, the county’s former economic development agency chief, pleaded guilty last year, admitting she helped conceal Stenger’s crimes. She was sentenced to probation and fined $20,000.

Stenger’s chief of staff, Bill Miller, also pleaded guilty last year to theft of honest services through bribery and wire fraud, admitting he pressured Sweeney to renew a state lobbying contract with a company whose owner donated $59,000 to Stenger. The company and owner weren’t identified in court documents. Miller is serving a 15-month sentence.

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