A Breese contractor and a former Aldi executive have been indicted in federal court in East St. Louis on fraud charges linked to kickbacks paid as part of the construction and renovation of Aldi grocery stores in Missouri, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Thursday.
Donald E. Schniers, 71, the owner of C. Juengel Co. in Breese, is accused of paying monthly kickbacks totaling $554,000 to Louis R. Ross, 62, of Florissant, Missouri, in exchange for Aldi construction contracts over a four-year period, federal prosecutors said.
Neither Ross nor Schniers could be reached for comment on Thursday. A representative from Aldi also could not be reached for comment.
Schniers and Ross are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, four counts of mail fraud, and four counts of wire fraud.
“Ross and Schniers are accused of conspiring to create the appearance of a competitive bidding environment when one did not exist,” stated a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Illinois.
“The indictment alleges that Ross and Schniers submitted fictitious bids in the names of other regional construction companies that were higher than C. Juengel’s bids.
“Using these fictitious high bids from competing construction firms, Ross and Schniers ensured that C. Juengel was the lowest bidder on the projects and was ultimately awarded the contracts.”
Ross and Schniers also are accused of altering a legitimate bid submitted by one local construction company to increase the amount of the bid to be higher than C. Juengel’s bid, the news release states.
The news release said C. Juengel was awarded 12 contracts for general contractor services between March 2016 and May 2017, as a result of the alleged fraud valued at over $21 million.
The indictment listed in online federal court records shows that C. Juengel began contracting with Aldi around 2009 for construction and renovation of stores in Missouri and several in southern Illinois. The records also state that Ross was the director of real estate for Aldi’s O’Fallon, Missouri, Division from November 1989 to Oct. 2, 2018.
In the case against Schniers, federal online court records show prosecutors are seeking the forfeiture of property at 660 S. Main St. in Breese; 220 Baneberry Drive in Highland; and 8024 W. Redbird Road in Peoria, Arizona.
In the case against Ross, the records show prosecutors are seeking the forfeiture of property at 2421 Redman Ave. in St. Louis County.
Ross and Schniers are scheduled to appear in federal court in East St. Louis for their arraignments on June 10.
Each of the counts in the indictment carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years.
The case was investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.