FBI Arrested Ramapo Supervisor Chris St. Lawrence In Corruption Probe

Federal agents and District Attorney’s Office detectives arrested Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence Thursday morning on charges tied to the financing of the town’s controversial baseball stadium through its economic development agency.

St. Lawrence faces charges of violating federal laws. St. Lawrence, who also served as Ramapo Local Development Corporation chairman, is accused of overstating town assets when filing documents to obtain the $25 million in municipal bonds used to build Provident Bank Park off Route 45 outside Pomona in 2012.

Investigators also looked into the movement of money between the local development corporation and town accounts, including possible commingling of funds, and whether the LDC that oversaw the stadium project generated money and repaid the town.

The arrests came nearly three years after FBI agents and Rockland District Attorney’s Office detectives seized boxes of documents and computer hard drives on May 15, 2013, from Town Hall offices, including records from the finance department and the offices of the supervisor, town attorney and tax departments.

Deputy Supervisor Patrick Withers, a retired New York City police officer, said Thursday that the arrests were not surprising given the 2013 raid and the subpoenas for records from the town, its bond advisers, auditors and banks. Withers opposed much of the spending on the ballpark in the early stages until the facility was built and a state judge ruled it couldn’t be closed down.

“The arrest has cast a dark cloud over our town,” Withers said. “While the criminal charges filed are not a surprise, coming as they are on the heels of a multi-year federal investigation, the nature and extent of the charges are shocking.”

It was not immediately clear whether St. Lawrence would continue to try to carry out the duties of his office. Withers said he would ensure that town government would function as usual.

Preet Bharara’s U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI had been working the case with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which can file civil charges for violations of federal law.

St. Lawrence’s critics, including the grassroots political party Preserve Ramapo, have accused him of manipulating financial regulations and laws to get the stadium built. They forced a public vote on the ballpark and filed lawsuits to try to block its construction, claiming the town would lose millions of dollars.

1 reply
  1. Joe Levin
    Joe Levin says:

    RAMAPO, — Ramapo’s town supervisor was arrested by federal agents, capping a three-year corruption probe into how the town used private and public money to finance its controversial minor-league baseball stadium.

    Christopher St. Lawrence was taken into custody Thursday morning and is expected to appear in federal court in White Plains later in the day. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is expected to discuss the arrest Thursday.

    St. Lawrence, the stadium’s primary advocate, is suspected of using complicated private and public financing from the Provident Bank Park through the Ramapo Local Development Corp., a private nonprofit corporation that he headed.

    The stadium was built even though local taxpayers overwhelmingly defeated a 2010 referendum on whether to fund the project. A withering 2012 state audit suggested officials mingled private and public enterprises for a risky development.

    The corruption probe into St. Lawrence became public in May 2013 when Ramapo town hall was searched in a daytime raid by the FBI and Rockland District Attorney’s Office. Boxes of documents and computer hard-drives were seized.

    St. Lawrence served as both the town’s financial chief and head of the Ramapo Local Development Corp., the private nonprofit corporation through which the $60 million baseball stadium and 132 units of high-density housing on Elm Street were financed.

    The stadium appears to have been paid for by using profits from the Elm Street housing development, financed by loans totaling $30 million

    In 2010, more than 70 percent of residents rejected a $16.5 million plan to finance the construction of the minor-league baseball stadium. But town officials went ahead, guaranteeing $25 million in bonds issued by the Ramapo Local Development Corp.

    Federal investigators soon began probing whether St. Lawrence and others overstated assets, such as incoming revenue, for the bonds and their refinancing. They also are looking into the movement of money among accounts and possible commingling of funds involving the LDC.

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