ST. LOUIS (CN) – Former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger pleaded guilty Friday morning to public corruption charges for giving county contracts to campaign donors.
Stenger, 47, of Clayton, Missouri, was indicted by a federal grand jury on April 25 as part of a pay-to-play scheme in which he awarded county contracts in exchange for political donations. He resigned as St. Louis County executive on Monday, shortly after the indictment was unsealed.
Stenger, a Democrat who appeared in court Friday with his attorney Scott Rosenblum, originally pleaded not guilty Monday to the three counts of honest services bribery and mail fraud.
“Obviously it is not one of his proud moments, but he has completely accepted responsibility for his mistakes in judgment, his lapses in judgment and his conduct while in office as county executive,” Rosenblum told reporters after the hearing.
Neither he nor Stenger answered reporters’ questions.
U.S. Attorney Hal Goldsmith, who is prosecuting the case, also declined comment, citing the ongoing investigation.
As part of the plea deal, Stenger admitted to helping a campaign donor, John Rallo, and his companies get insurance contracts from the county in 2015 and 2016, as well as a 2016 consulting contract through the St. Louis County Port Authority.
Stenger also helped another Rallo company, Weston Holdings LLC, get options to buy two properties which were held by the St. Louis Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority, according to the indictment.
Rallo made repeated donations to Stenger with the understanding that he would get contracts from the county or associated entities, Stenger admitted.
In a fifth instance, the plea deal outlines Stenger directing staff to award a three-year lobbying contract to an unnamed company over a second bid.
As part of the plea, the government agreed to not pursue any further prosecution against Stenger in the Eastern District of Missouri related to the pay-for-play scheme.
U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry will sentence Stenger on Aug. 9. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine, but is probably looking at three to four years, according to the federal sentencing guidelines.
“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,” Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Reginald Harris said in a statement following the plea.
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.”