Journal News coverage of day nine of the trial,
April 3, 2017
“Prosecutors at Christopher St. Lawrence’s federal trial continued focusing Wednesday on their contention that the Ramapo supervisor provided an artificially rosy picture of the town’s finances while controlling information to the people selling the town’s bonds.
Kevin Coleman, vice president of Jeffries LLC, underwriters of the town’s bonds, testified that the supervisor was the main source of information before the town’s bonds and bond anticipation notes hit the market between September 2011 and May 2014. Those included financing for the town’s baseball stadium and other projects.
Coleman testified that during due diligence calls between the town and underwriter right before the bonds were offered on the market, St. Lawrence supplied all the information regarding the town’s fund balances.
When Prosecutor Daniel Loss asked Coleman why he went to St. Lawrence, he answered that St. Lawrence was the town’s director of finance and was the only one on the calls with the town.
Coleman emphasized that the town guaranteed all payments on bonds and other securities, even if its quasi-governmental agency, the Rockland Local Development Corp., lacked the money to do so.
Cross-examination by defense attorney Ashley Torre led Coleman through questions intended to show the town did not default on any payments and that estimates of Ramapo’s fund balances later turned out to be fairly accurate.
Bond analyst testifies
During Wednesday afternoon’s testimony, Loss tried to show that St. Lawrence had reason to disguise the state of the town’s finances.
Dan Belcher, a municipal bond analyst who purchased Ramapo’s bonds for his clients, said he had no prior information warning him that there were questions about the town’s finances.
“We have to rely on information that’s available and we expect it to be truthful and accurate,” Belcher said.
He said knowing the status of a town’s reserves is key to investors.
“A negative balance is a sign of stress,” Belcher said. “If we had known, we would have issued a higher risk notice.”
He also noted the fact that the bonds were guaranteed by the Town of Ramapo, which was positive.
Also discussed Wednesday was a $3.1 million payment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for hurricane damage, but prosecution witnesses and documents showed that $2 million of that was never processed. However, the $3.1 million was kept on the books to boost the surplus, according to the prosecution.
Further testimony revolved around the sale of a housing development in the Torne Valley named the Hamlets, which was never consummated because of concerns about timber rattlesnakes, a protected species.
The $3.08 million for the proposed sale stayed on the town’s books and was shifted to revenue from another housing development, Ramapo Commons, according to testimony.
On the stand: Leonard Jackson of Leonard Jackson Associates, an engineering firm.
Key testimony: Jackson said Ramapo owed him more than $800,000 for site plan work at the town’s stadium and other projects. Payment apparently required a Town Board resolution that was never passed, which allowed the town to hold off on paying him and keep the money on the books, according to the prosecution.
Up next: The trial resumes Thursday morning with continuing testimony by Jackson.”
Read the complete Journal News story with links to previous days and video here.