Steve Stenger to enter guilty plea for ‘pay-to-play’ scheme in federal court Friday

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. — The Department of Justice says that former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger is expected to plead guilty in federal court Friday.  He will be appearing at the Thomas F. Eagleton Courthouse in downtown St. Louis at 10:30am in front of U.S. District Court Judge Catherine D. Perry.

The evidence in the case against former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger not only includes text messages but also audio recordings of private meetings.

The court record does not identify who was wearing a wire when the FBI began investigating early last year.

A plot of land in Wellston is a key part of the federal investigation. It’s near the Wellston Metrolink stop. It was reportedly a good deal for land and the feds say Stenger made sure it went into the hands of one of his campaign contributors.

The indictment says Stenger used Sheila Sweeney to make it happen. She’s the former CEO of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership. She did not respond to my request for a comment today about her alleged role in Stenger’s deals.

The indictment says Stenger was concerned about a call from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to the campaign contributor he was helping.

A transcript says Stenger told the contributor, “You can’t talk to the (expletive) press. I bent over (expletive) backwards for you, and I asked you one simple (expletive) thing, don’t talk to the (expletive) press. And I’m telling you, you’re going to (expletive) kill yourself, alright, you’re gonna kill yourself with this (expletive).”

The indictment says Stenger continued to say, “It’s gonna pass in August because the reason for what they’re doing is gonna die… I’m winning in the polls… It’ll go away.” That was in May 2018.

Transcripts from a November 2018 conversation detail Stenger’s concern with another unnamed contributor. Stenger wanted Sweeney to award the contributor a contract and was feeling resistance.

Stenger allegedly told a staffer, “(Sweeney’s) a political creature, she was appointed by a politician, and by people who were appointed by politicians to take this role. She took the role. Now you’re in it. You’re either going to do it or you’re not. Get the (expletive) out. You’re a political person.”

Another transcript documented him saying, “It’s the art of staying in power.” - “Dude, we’ve got to know too. Is she going the wrong way on this (expletive) thing? Because if she’s going the wrong thing on this, I’m firing her before she makes the decision. Seriously, we can’t have that.”

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