St. Lawrence trial, day 12. May 8, 2017
Resuming after the weekend break, Judge Cathy Seibel decided to resolve the problem of the reluctant witness Michael Reilly. Reilly has failed to provide sufficient medical reasons for not appearing when called as a prosecution witness, so the Judge has ordered a FedEx overnight notification of his required presence, and failing that, if he does not respond, U.S. Marshals will be sent to retrieve Mr. Reilly, and he will be charged with failure to appear.
Michael Klein arrived with two attorneys, and when seated, he refused to answer the first three questions posed by the prosecuting attorney. He cited his fifth amendment right to respectfully decline to answer. Judge Seibel stopped the proceedings, excused the jury, and then addressed Klein and the Prosecutors. She ordered Klein to testify but did grant him immunity, assuring him that if he didn’t lie, what he says could not be used in a criminal prosecution against him. If he were to lie, however, the order would be revoked and he would be prosecuted.
The Journal News coverage follows:
Christopher St. Lawrence orchestrated a series of fraudulent financial transfers between town land projects to cover an approximately $3 million hole in the budget, prosecutors said Monday during the 12thday of the town supervisor’s corruption trial.
Prosecutor James McMahon said that when the $3.080 million sale of The Hamlets in western Ramapo didn’t go through, it left a hole in the town budget that needed to be covered following a raid on Town Hall by the FBI and the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office.
So, the town executed a buy-back from another project — Ramapo Commons — from the Ramapo Land Development Corp. for the same amount: $3.080 million.
St. Lawrence faces a 22-count indictment charging him with securities fraud for allegedly manipulating the town’s books.
Under questioning Monday, Town Attorney Michael Klein explained that, in 2014, he came up with a formula for the town to obtain nearly half the land and roads that were part of the Ramapo Commons project as an account receivable for the town, which came out to $3.080 million.
Klein said he had been responding to the town’s auditors request for an explanation since 2010 on when the RLDC will pay the town $3,080 for the land deal.
Loretta Furlong, an accountant in the town finance department, also testified about the transfer.
“We already had an account receivable, but they were swapped,” she said. “The Hamlets became Elm Street.”
Defense lawyer Michael Burke downplayed the importance of swapping projects, saying that the $3.080 was still an account receivable for the town, regardless of which project it came from.
The money was paid in 2014 and 2015 by the RLDC.
U.S. District Court Judge Cathy Seibel warned both the prosecution and defense they would have trouble making their cases to the jury because of the complex nature of the narratives.
Ballpark land sale questioned
Earlier in the day, Klein said he had no knowledge of a $3.66 million payment the town received from the RLDC for the property to build its controversial baseball stadium.
Other testimony: The town’s financial adviser, Pranipat Subarma of Environmental Capital, was cross-examined by St. Lawrence’s defense lawyer Michael Burke.
She testified that between 2010 and 2013, town finance official Melissa Riemer provided her with financial information but didn’t recall specifics.
Riemer, the prosecution’s star witness, tape recorded conversations with town officials.
Subarma has told the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office that she didn’t recall the $3.66 million from the land sale as revenue.
She was asked by Burke if she had a fiduciary duty to the town to verify all information.
“I assumed the information was accurate,” Subarma replied. “It’s not our duty to verify the financial information as accurate.”
Up next: Town finance department accountant Loretta Furlong continues testifying.
Read the complete Journal News coverage here.