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.