ST. LOUIS • The owner of a St. Louis County construction company pleaded guilty to a federal charge Thursday and admitted involvement in a scheme to bribe an official with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and set up a shell company with a disabled veteran as figurehead.
Michael Woodling, 53, of Fenton, and Joseph Madlinger, 71, of Dupo, recruited a service-disabled veteran, James Browdy, to run a new company called CJMS.
But Browdy was simply a figurehead, and all the decision-making, billing and other work was performed by Woodling's company, Gateway Contractors Inc., according to Woodling and Madlinger's guilty pleas.
Woodling and Madlinger then bribed Russell Todd, a Veterans Affairs official, with cash, St. Louis Cardinals tickets and lunches to steer business to CJMS, Woodling and Madlinger claim. Todd is retired but was chief of projects or chief engineer at a VA hospital in St. Louis and also played a role at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, officials said.
From 2007 through Nov. 1, 2010, CJMS won roughly $3.4 million in contracts, officials said. As a result, Gateway reaped $500,000 in profit, Madlinger and Browdy received roughly $300,000 from CJMS, and Madlinger got about $750,000 from Gateway, prosecutors said.
As part of his plea, Woodling agreed to forfeit more than $1.5 million. He faces up to roughly three years in prison when sentenced May 15 on the felony charge of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
State records show Woodling and his company were generous donors to political causes, giving nearly $35,000 in just the last 15 months, almost exclusively to area Democrats.
Madlinger could face up to four years in prison when sentenced May 8.
Todd's lawyer has not returned a call seeking comment and Browdy could be reached for comment.