RAMAPO, N.Y. -- Chris St. Lawrence, the Democratic Party supervisor of Ramapo, was arrested by FBI and district attorney's office detectives early Thursday morning as part of their corruption probe, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.
The arrest comes following a three-year probe into the finances of Provident Bank Park. The movement of money between town accounts and the Local Development Corporation that oversaw the project was also part of the investigation.
The 65-year-old St. Lawrence, who lives in Wesley Hills, and N. Aaron Troddler, the former Executive Director of the Ramapo Local Development Corporation, were charged with 22 counts of securities fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy in connection with municipal bonds issued by the town and by the RLDC, the attorney's office said.
According to the allegations contained in the Indictment, as of August 2015, Ramapo had more than $128 million in outstanding bonds that had been issued for various municipal purposes, while the RLDC, a corporation created and owned by the town under state law, had issued $25 million in bonds to pay for the construction of Provident Bank Park, a minor league baseball stadium in Ramapo.
While the fraud predated the construction of the stadium, the town’s financial problems were caused largely by the $58 million total cost of the stadium, the attorney's office said. Ramapo paid more than half of that cost, despite the rejection of the Town’s guarantee of bonds to pay for construction of the stadium in a town-wide referendum in 2010 and St. Lawrence’s public statements that no public money would be used to pay for the stadium, according to the attorney's office.
The defendants lied to investors primarily by making up false assets in the Town’s General Fund, the attorney's office said.
“Today, this office has brought what is believed to be the first ever municipal bond-related criminal securities fraud charges against public officials," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. "As alleged, Christopher St. Lawrence and N. Aaron Troodler kicked truth and transparency to the curb, selling over $150 million of municipal bonds on fabricated financials. In doing so, they defrauded both the citizens of Ramapo and thousands of municipal bond investors around the country. The $3.7 trillion municipal bond market is no place for fraud and manipulation; there should be no tolerance for it."
Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said St. Lawrence is "accused of shamelessly exploiting his position for a personal agenda.
"Public officials, whether elected or appointed, are more than mere employees," Zugibe said. "They are servants of the public interest, and we must insist on absolute honesty, integrity and trustworthiness from every one. The charges announced today are the direct result of the good work of our Public Corruption Task Force, a true collaboration between my office, the U.S. Attorney and the FBI.”
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.