An important fact that has been mostly overlooked in the news coverage of the St. Lawrence convictions is that this case set legal precedent as the first of its kind. A Google search of the early stories shows only one article from US News and World Reports titled “New York Town Official Convicted in Landmark Bond Fraud Case” that paid attention to what was apparently an important part of the Justice Department’s original interest in what was happening in Ramapo.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara had pointed this out in his first press conference at the time of St. Lawrence’s arrest by federal agents. He said: “Today, this Office has brought what is believed to be the first ever municipal bond-related criminal securities fraud charges against public officials.”
The man who replaced Bharara, after he was fired by Trump, Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, also noted the legal significance in his press release on Friday. “ Today’s verdict, which came after a four-week trial in federal court in White Plains, marks the first conviction for securities fraud in connection with municipal bonds.”
To explain the wider meaning of the convictions, Kim continued: “As the jury found today after trial, Christopher St. Lawrence lied repeatedly to the investing public about the state of Ramapo’s finances. The integrity of the $3.7 trillion municipal bond market is of critical importance to both investors and municipalities that rely on this market. The verdict today in a case of public corruption meets securities fraud, stands as a victory for both honest government and fair financial markets.”
The United States v. Christopher St. Lawrence and its outcome has now become part of the disgraceful legacy of our ex-supervisor and will continue to link his name in circles wider than just local history.
In the last paragraphs of the press release, Kim details the sentencing guidelines that St. Lawrence now faces. His prospects are anything but good.
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“ST. LAWRENCE, 65, of Wesley Hills, New York, was found guilty of 11 counts of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; eight counts of securities fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; and one count of conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of a defendant will be determined by the judge.
Mr. Kim praised the investigative work of the FBI and the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office. Mr. Kim also thanked the Securities & Exchange Commission for its substantial assistance in the investigation and trial.
The criminal case is being prosecuted by the Office’s White Plains Division. Assistant U.S. Attorneys James McMahon, Stephen Ritchin and Daniel Loss are in charge of the prosecution.”
To see the complete text of the press release, click here to download a copy.