Could there be much more to come?
BY CAROL MCILMURRAY
ROCKLAND- The Federal Bureau of Investigations came back to Rockland in full force Wednesday.
Much-hyped expectations of a roundup of crooked politicians were not met, but only a week and a day after News 12 announced they were tipped by federal sources of looming FBI indictments in Rockland County, the feds came in 200-strong and set up shop at the Fire Emergency Training Center in Pomona. The FBI expanded their ongoing investigation in Rockland and raided numerous yeshivas, homes, and businesses in Monsey, Kaser and Orange County’s Kiryas Joel and in Brooklyn, as well.
According to a report by The Journal News, the unexpected raids were part of an investigation into federal taxpayer money spent at the yeshivas through a US government E-Rate program to bring computer technologies and Internet access into the classroom. It is believed that the monies may have been illegally allocated, since it is common knowledge that many of these classrooms do not have Internet access or computers.
In fact, use of the Internet altogether is against the practice of many Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox sects. The E-Rate program was established in 1998 and allocates more than $4 billion annually for schools and libraries across the nation to have computers and free access to the internet. There have been no known arrests, but as of late Wednesday night the feds remain in town and are still active.
Among those businesses being raided are some connected to associates of FBI informant Moses Stern. The feds are said to be looking to shake as much information out of the subjects of the raid as possible in hopes of securing further search warrants and future indictments. Stern has been exposed as helping candidates such as NYS Attorney General Eric Schneidermann and Rockland Family Court Justice Sherri Eisenpress receive monies via a straw donor family called “The Markowitzes.”
Stern also is the informant who set up former Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin and Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret in the 2013 Corridor of Corruption scandal that led to the downfall of Jasmin and powerful state Senator Malcolm Smith, among others. Aside from the apparent leak to News12, the FBI has been tightlipped about releasing details of the ongoing raids and anticipated arrests.
The bureau did release a brief statement, “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 an ongoing matter, and we are unable to provide any additional information at this time.”
Rockland residents continue to wonder which members of Rockland’s political scene could be picked up and hauled over to the United States Federal Court in White Plains for their involvement in the alleged corruption. Wednesday raids left the steps of U.S. Southern District Court bare as News 12 and the Rockland County Times awaited rumored arraignment of Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence, however, no such action was to be found.
St. Lawrence’s dealings with the funding of the Provident Baseball Stadium in Pomona had caught the feds’ eye over three years ago and was the subject of a 2013 raid of Ramapo Town Hall. Rumors of arrests of Clarkstown and other Rockland County politicians spread have yet to see any substantive light of day.
The Rockland DA Tom Zugibe has been apt to signal that the yeshiva raids are the center of the federal investigative vortex, while other sources believe much more is to come. We won’t have to wait long to find out. The feds remain in town and are expected to continue activity Thursday, March 17.
Dylan Skriloff contributed to this report