St. Lawrence trial Friday, April 28 day six
Another full day of testimony completed the examination of Ramapo Councilman Patrick Withers, some time was spent establishing the fact that St. Lawrence was fully aware of the laws regarding the bonding process, and it ended with just the beginning of Aaron Troodler’s testimony.
Aaron Troodler was an attorney at Ramapo Town Hall, and he became the Executive Director of the Ramapo Local Development Corporation (RLDC) at the request of the Supervisor St. Lawrence.
An unlikely co-conspirator, Troodler found himself in the middle of a vortex of corruption. Drawn in, he now admits to having committed crimes for the Ramapo development group that built the stadium and the condos on Elm Street. Charged along with St. Lawrence with 22 felony counts, Troodler has pleaded guilty to several federal charges and is now cooperating with the government in their prosecution of the Supervisor.
The day began with several decisions about the witness Michael Reilly. The court said that his attorney has until Tuesday to produce medical documentation that shows why he is unable to appear in court. If provided, Judge Seibel said that a videoconference can be arranged instead of an in-person examination. This witness is important because of his knowledge of the FEMA money that was supposed to come to the Town.
Patrick Withers was back on the stand, and St. Lawrence’s defense attorney, Michael Burke, asked whether he had voted on a resolution to remove Melissa Reimer from her position in the finance office at town. He said he did, acting on the advice of town attorney Michael Klein. He was also asked if he remembered what the decision of the hearing judge Jonas Gelb was concerning Reimer. He said he didn’t remember.
Burke didn’t follow up on this issue about the accountant who tried to warn those in finance that there were fraudulent situations emerging around the ballpark and bonding. So why this pointless diversion? It’s not so pointless when you consider Melissa Reimer’s role as a whistleblower who was willing to risk her job and possibly her future. The two most devastating witnesses that Burke has to somehow discount are Aaron Troodler, St. Lawrence’s co-conspirator who has admitted they knew they were committing crimes, and Melissa Reimer who tried to warn people inside Ramapo first, and then turned to federal officials for help. By bringing up Gelb’s flawed judgment in the town’s disciplinary hearing, he has introduced a negative. (For a reminder of that judicial fiasco read “An Accountant, an Auditor, and the Attorney with Amnesia”
Burke then moved on to an audio recording of a Ramapo Town Board executive session. It ran for one hour and 18 minutes. The judge asked if there were transcripts so the jury could tell who was speaking. He said there weren’t, and it didn’t matter. The meeting was a budget workshop.
After the hour plus, and then a break for lunch, Burke asked Withers, Did you secretly record that meeting. He admitted yes, he did. Burke then accused Withers of committing a felony by recording the meeting. On cross examination, a prosecuting attorney later pointed out that it is not always a crime to record executive sessions.
The judge asked Burke, is that why we listened to that recording, to establish that the witness had made the recording secretly? Burke admitted that was the reason, and the Judge pointed out that he could have done that after 10 minutes of the recording.
Withers was then asked if he ever tried to get St. Lawrence removed as the CEO of the RLDC. He said that he and Daniel Friedman agreed to try and persuade the other two council members Yitzy Ullman and Brendel Logan Charles to join them in voting on a resolution to remove St. Lawrence and to replace him with Daniel.
The day after the discussion with the other council members, Withers got a phone call from the Yechiel Lebovits who pressured him not to make any changes. We need to keep the Supervisor there.
At the Wednesday Town Board meeting when Withers and Friedman were going to propose the change, they were met by Michael Tauber who also threatened political consequences if they went forward with their plan. Michael Tauber is a major developer who did the Elm Street project for St. Lawrence and is involved in the Tartikov Rabbinical College that has sued Pomona under the RLUPA statute. Ullman and Brendel Logan-Charles told them that they wouldn’t vote with them. A question I would have liked to have been asked: How did Lebovits and Tauber find out about the resolution when the discussions were only between the four council persons. Once again we have major orthodox developers right in the middle of town board decisions.
Another question addressed the financing of the ballpark, which St. Lawrence had loudly declared Would not cost the taxpayers a single dollar. Withers explained a formula arrived at for the stadium: anything horizontal, parking lot, grounds, etc., would be paid for by the town, and anything vertical, stands, booths, etc., would be paid for by the RLDC.
Alexander Scoufis The next witness called was an attorney with the criminal prosecution group of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). His testimony established that St. Lawrence had fully understood the laws and regulations that guide the bonding process. St. Lawrence was registered from 1981-1996 with FINRA having passed the Series 7 exam that qualified him to buy and sell securities, as well as the Series 24 exam. Both exams require a knowledge of what constitutes securities fraud.
That should probably short-circuit the “Who knew?” defense often cited by local politicians.
Aaron Troodler The opening questions for Troodler addressed his current situation and his past responsibilities at Town Hall.
He graduated with a law degree from Benjamin Cardoza Law School, and began work in Ramapo first as a part time attorney working for the Building and Planning Dept. He was hired in 2006 and left in June 2015. From 2008 to 2015 he served as the Executive Director of the RLDC with St. Lawrence.
After being charged with 22 felony counts by the Department of Justice, he decided to plead guilty to the securities fraud and conspiracy charges. He faces up to 25 years in prison, but he expects that due to his cooperation with officials, the sentence will be two to four years. He was disbarred, and has moved with his wife and four children to Pennsylvania, where he is now employed in an office.
The introductory interview dramatically came to a close with a series of brief questions and answers about the charges.
Troodler was in charge of issuing bonds for the RLDC and admitted there were various bond-related documents “I signed. . . and didn’t read them.”
At a point when the RLDC decided to refinance the stadium bond, he was interviewed by Newsday. “I lied to the reporter and omitted information.” Following a script given to him by St. Lawrence, Troodler said the refinancing was to take advantage of lower interest rates. The truth was the RLDC couldn’t make the payments of the existing bond.
He admitted that he “executed false documents”—signing them when he knew the numbers were false. When asked why he did that, he said St. Lawrence asked him to.
“I did appear before the SEC and under oath I lied, giving false information to them.” Asked why he did that, again he replied, St. Lawrence asked me to.
Troodler also explained that he did all the minutes for the meetings of the RLDC.
The trial will resume Monday morning, and will likely begin with the matter of Michael Reilly’s appearance, followed by Aaron Troodler and the continuation of the prosecution’s questioning.