St. Lawrence (file)
WHITE PLAINS – Former Ramapo Town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence was sentenced on Wednesday to 2 ½ years in federal prison for his scheme to defraud investors in municipal bonds issued by the town and the Ramapo Local Development Corporation.
St. Lawrence was found guilty of 20 counts of fraud and conspiracy following a four-week trial last May in White Plains federal court. It was the first conviction for securities fraud relating to municipal bonds.
As of August 2015, the town had more than $128 million in outstanding bonds that had been issued for various municipal purposes, while the RLDC had issued $15 million in bonds to pay for the construction of Provident Bank Park, the minor league baseball stadium in Ramapo.
While the fraud predated construction of the stadium, the town’s
financial problems were caused largely by the $58 million total cost of
the facility. The town paid more than half of the 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 ball park.
The indictment charged that St. Lawrence lied to investors in the town’s and RLDC’s bonds in order to conceal the deteriorating state of the town’s finances and the inability of the RLDC to make scheduled payments of principal and interest to bond holders from its own money.
St. Lawrence lied to investors mainly by making up false assets in the town’s general fund.
“At a trial earlier this year, the jury quickly saw through his years of lies, and today, he was sentenced to time in federal prison,” said Acting US Attorney Joon Kim. “The integrity of the $3.7 trillion municipal bond market must be protected, and prosecutions like this one should put all on notice that misleading investors in that market through fraud and deception will lead to prosecution and jail.”
“While some may disagree with the severity of the punishment handed down to this disgraced former public official, we must respect the findings of our legal system,” said Rockland County Executive Edwin Day. “As an elected official, I seek to honor the trust that the public has placed in me in every decision that I make. I never lose sight of the fact that the money spent by government at every level belongs to the taxpayers.”
Day said when an elected official is convicted of fraud involving money that belongs to the taxpayer, “there must be consequences.”