Ex-Aldi Exec, Illinois Contractor Plead Guilty to $20M Bid Rigging Scheme

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A former Aldi executive and a general contractor from Illinois have pleaded guilty to bid rigging on more than $20 million worth of construction projects for grocery stores throughout southern Illinois and Missouri.

Louis R. Ross Sr., former director of real estate for Aldi’s O’Fallon, Missouri, Division, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, four counts of mail fraud and four counts of wire fraud.

Donald E. Schniers, owner of C. Juengel Company out of Breese, Illinois, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, one count of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud.

According to court documents, C. Juengel provided general contracting services including construction and renovation to Aldi stores within Ross’s division. The scheme occurred from at least February 2014 through March 2018, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of Illinois.

Ross and Schniers conspired to create a false competitive bidding environment for construction projects. Schniers would create fictitious bids under the names of other construction companies without their knowledge or consent.

The sham bids always came in higher than C. Juengel’s, which led to C. Juengel being awarded the projects. In addition, Ross and Schniers altered legitimate bids submitted by another construction company.

In all, C. Juengel was awarded 12 contracts for general contractor services valued at approximately $20 million. Aldi overpaid for the projects and was defrauded out of more than $2.8 million as a result.

Ross was paid monthly kickbacks totaling $554,000 from C. Juengel’s bank account for his role in the scheme.

“In his attempt for personal gain, Louis Ross’s actions undermined competitive contracting practices, which in turn affect the price consumers pay for goods and services,” said FBI Springfield Field office Acting Special Agent in Charge Joe Rodriguez. “The FBI, along with our law enforcement partners, prioritizes efforts to expose corruption and investigate illegal practices.”

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“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is charged with defending the nation’s mail system from illegal use. With the collaborative efforts of our federal law enforcement partners, Postal Inspectors investigate fraudsters who utilize the U.S. Mail to perpetuate financial schemes to defraud others in order to enrich themselves. Postal Inspectors seek justice for victims, including the multiple individual consumer and business victims in this investigation,” said Inspector in Charge Ruth Mendonça who leads the Chicago Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which includes the St. Louis Field Office.

Ross and Schniers are awaiting sentencing for their plea agreements. Each of the counts carries a maximum of 20 years in prison. Sentencing will be decided by the court, scheduled to occur for each defendant in mid-October.

The FBI Springfield and St. Louis Field Offices and the St. Louis Field Office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service are contributing to the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Zoe Gross with the Southern District of Illinois and Trial Attorney Andrew Rosa with the Department of Justice, Antitrust Division, Chicago Office are prosecuting the case.