Supporters of a popular Rockland County official arrested on Thursday, said the federal charges filed against him are the product of a biased and targeted investigation.
Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence, faces a 22-count indictment in what are “believed to be the first-ever municipal bond-related criminal securities fraud charges against public officials,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said. St. Lawrence, 65, was released on $500,000 bail.
“I pleaded not guilty and I look for my day in court,” St. Lawrence shouted as he left the federal courthouse in White Plains.
The charges come three years after the FBI and the district attorney’s office raided the Ramapo Town Hall and seized records from the finance and tax departments and the offices of the supervisor and town attorney.
“The fact that after a three-year investigation that turned over every file in the town, all they came up with was something that throughout American history, no elected official has ever been charged with this tells you something what was going on,” said a local political activist who worked closely with St. Lawrence for over 20 years. “Lehman Brothers defrauded thousands of people and nobody was ever arrested, it’s a witch hunt.”
Bharara alleged that the supervisor had sold over $150 million of municipal bonds on what he called “fabricated financials.”
“In doing so, they defrauded both the citizens of Ramapo and thousands of municipal bond investors around the country,” he said.
Supporters painted the embattled St. Lawrence as one who always put the needs of his constituents first.
“He [St. Lawrence] is a selfless public servant who has always done what he thought was right for the community,” said the activist who added that even if the charges are true, “no one is accusing him of taking a penny for himself.”
St. Lawrence is accused of inflating town assets to obtain the $25 million in municipal bonds used in 2012 to build Provident Bank Park, a stadium outside Pomona used as a sports and concert venue.
“Ramapo is a very diverse town and being the Supervisor is like walking a tight rope while being pulled in a hundred different directions, for the town’s sake, we hope that he will persevere.”