The Federal Bureau of Investigation early Thursday morning, arrested a prominent Rockland official on corruption charges. Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence of the town of Ramapo and his office were the focus of an FBI raid on town offices on May 15, 2013 during which federal agents collected evidence and documents. Since then no arrests had been made, or information released. Until this morning when St. Lawrence was officially accused of violating federal laws which reportedly included the possible movement of money between the town and the Local Development Corporation set up to oversee the baseball stadium that was built in the town, as well as overstating assets when paperwork was filed to get a $25 million bond approved to help get the controversial park built. An audit completed by the New York State Comptroller’s Office showed that the expected $25 million cot of the park was actually closer to more than $60 million, a number which the comptroller’s office stated taxpayers could wind up being responsible for. Patrick Withers, the Deputy Supervisor of Ramapo stated that he will ensure the town’s government will continue to run efficiently, though he is not sure whether or not St. Lawrence will continue to run efficiently, though he is not sure whether St. Lawrence will continue his duties. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara will be holding a press conference at 11:00 AM, and released a statement early this morning saying that Aaron Troodler was also arrested for signing off on the bond’s paperwork despite it allegedly having untrue information. And both are facing charges of conspiracy in connection to municipal bonds, securities fraud, and wire fraud. Troodler is the former Executive Director of the Ramapo LDC.
A lawsuit filed by a group of Rockland County education advocates has been dismissed. According to Laura Barbieri, the lawyer who filed the class action suit on behalf of the law firm Advocates for Justice, the group has plans to file again within a month. The lawsuit was against the East Ramapo School District and several local yeshivas, or private religious institution, claiming that officials were not providing students with proper educations by not teaching secular subjects. Included in the suit was the State Department of Education, which the group claimed helped continue the conditions in the schools. According to the Journal News, which broke the story, the group voluntarily dismissed the suit against the school, the district, and the Education Department which the group voluntarily dismissed the case. Barbieri stated to the newspaper that Advocates for Justice was not prepared to serve the defendants and are currently preparing to refile, adding another plaintiff to the list of former students accusing the education systems of failing them in regards to their curriculums.
ROCKLAND – Even though April 22 is Earth Day, there are events planned all through April into May to help save our planet and maintain the beauty we have come to enjoy here in the Hudson Valley. Starting this weekend you can join thousands of Rockland County Residents removing tons of litter from our streets, parks and waterways, helping to make our communities cleaner, healthier and more beautiful. Last year, over 2500 volunteers throughout the county participated in the Great American Cleanup, an event that brings out over 4 million volunteers nationwide. Debris left on roadsides is often washed by rain and melted snow into local waterways through storm drains or blown directly into streams and lakes. These waterways help supply drinking water and also serve as habitat for aquatic, plant and wildlife. Rescheduled due to weather, Saturday April 23rd from 9-11am Rockland County Legislator Aney Paul and volunteers will meet at the Pascack Community Center at 87 New Clarkstown Road in Nanuet. This is a great opportunity to kick off your efforts, meet new neighbors, teach a child about their county, and do some community service. All volunteers are welcome. Check out all the wonderful cleanups happening at www.KeepRocklandBeautiful.org or call Sonia Cairo/Debbie Shaw 845-708-9164 if you would like to lead a cleanup team in your area.
ROCKLAND – The Rockland County Department of Health was notified this morning of an individual who died of bacterial meningitis. The individual was a foreign national who was visiting relatives for the holidays. During the visit, the individual fell ill and was taken by the family to a local hospital. According to the CDC bacterial meningitis is usually severe. While most people with meningitis recover, it can cause serious complications such as brain damage, hearing loss, or learning disabilities. The Health Department has since identified those who have had direct contact with the patient. Those people have been prescribed a course of post-exposure antibiotics. At this time, there are no additional community contacts or exposures of concern in Rockland County. There is no risk of further spread of meningitis to local residents.
RAMAPO – Yesterday at approximately 1pm, FBI agents and Rockland County District Attorney’s Office investigators, began executing search warrants countywide. According to sources, a staging area has been established at the Rockland County Fire Training Center in Pomona. The warrants are in connection to a fraud investigation linked to a federal grant program called E-rate. The program grants $4 billion annually nationwide. The intention of E-rate is to provide funding for local governments to offer internet and computer services in low-income areas. The investigation is looking at whether a number of Rockland County Yeshivas fraudulently obtained millions of dollars in E-rate federal funds. A statement released by the FBI yesterday stated, “Today, the FBI conducted searches in connection with an ongoing fraud investigation. If and when charges are filed, they will eventually become public. This remains on ongoing matter, and we are unable to provide any additional information at this time”.
NYACK-TARRYTOWN – Harry Hernandez, 56, of Staten Island could not be recovered yesterday from the wreckage of the tugboat, Specialist that collided with a Tappan Zee Bridge construction barge on Saturday, according to officials. Westchester County Public Safety, George Longworth, told reporters in a press conference yesterday that State police divers returned to the water Tuesday to search again for Mr. Hernandez and discovered that his body is located in the front of the boat, where “The degree of damage makes it impossible to free him and remove him from the vessel at this time.” Work continues on the salvage plan to raise the boat. The Coast Guard will need to approve the plan. The process could take upwards of a week or more, according to Westchester County Executive, Rob Astorino in an earlier statement. Hernandez’s body will be recovered once the salvage plan is complete. Other concerns surrounding the sunken vessel, is the environmental impact. There is a fuel spill from the vessel that crews have been working to contain since the accident, Coast Guard Lt. Commander, Marc Sennick stated that on Monday divers discovered a broken pipe from the boat’s fuel tank. The Tugboat Specialist was caring approximately 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel. Sennick explained they wouldn’t know how much fuel was lost and how much remains in the boat until salvage operations are complete.
SPRING VALLEY – Spring Valley Police Department Chief, Paul Modica, informed reporters at a press conference that Kelly Rivera-Pillco, a 10-year-old girl who had gone missing Monday morning while waiting for her school bus, actually got into a cab that took her into Manhattan. Chief Modica reported, “there was a disagreement in the household” and investigators don’t believe it was an abduction. According to sources, she was expected to be reunited with her Mother yesterday afternoon. Investigators discovered that she had been posting on Facebook and social media on Monday evening. Police spent all day Tuesday tracking her whereabouts. The investigation led to the fact that a taxi picked her up on the street Monday morning and took her to NYC. Investigators are still questioning who paid for the cab and why the school did not notify her family in regards to her school absence. Chief Modica stated, “We are confident that she hasn’t come to any kind of harm.” The investigation is ongoing.
SPRING VALLEY UPDATE – New information from Spring Valley Police Department Chief, Paul Modica, reveals that Kelly Rivera-Pillco, a 10-year-old girl who had gone missing yesterday morning while waiting for her school bus, actually got into a cab that took her into Manhattan. Chief Modica stated to reporters at a press conference that, “there was a disagreement in the household” and investigators don’t believe it was an abduction. They are not 100% sure she is safe but there has been communication with the family and they are confident she is still around. She was posting on Facebook and social media all last night. Police spent today tracking her whereabouts. The investigation led to the fact that a taxi picked her up on the street and took her to NYC. Police are still investigating where she is and who she is with. Chief Modica stated, “We are confident that she hasn’t come to any kind of harm.” The investigation is ongoing.
LOS ANGELES – Former First Lady, Nancy Reagan, the wife of 40th US President Ronald Reagan, died Sunday morning, she was 94. According to her spokesperson, the cause was congestive heart failure. Mrs. Reagan will best be remembered for her steadfast devotion and resolute commitment to her husband as he rose from Hollywood actor to California Governor, and finally the US Presidency. She founded “Just Say No” her anti-drug advertising campaign to fight youth drug abuse, and was defined by her classic sense of style and most notably her signature color, Reagan red. She spent the later years of her life tending to the former President and his battle with Alzheimer’s, breaking with her Republican base and supporting stem cell research as a possible cure. She will be buried, next to her husband, at The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA. According to her spokesperson, Mrs. Reagan requested that donations be made to the Reagan Library in lieu of flowers.
RAMAPO – Yesterday afternoon, councilman Samuel Tress was arrested. The councilman who sits on the Zoning Board of Appeals had signed an affidavit confirming that he would not profit from his decisions while on the board. It was discovered that he had voted to support a zoning change on a housing development where he holds a financial interest. According to the Rockland District Attorney’s Office, Tress (71), holds a prior felony conviction for federal mail fraud, and now faces a felony charge of first-degree offering a false instrument and a misdemeanor count of official misconduct. He has pleaded “not guilty” after being led in handcuffs into the courtroom of Justice Daniel Goldman. He was released without bail.