Good guy or bad guy? The DA accuses mayoral candidate Trustee Vilair Fonvil of serious acts of corruption
Spring Valley Trustee Arrested and Arraigned on Corruption and Grand Larceny Charges
BY JOEL GROSSBARTH
Spring Valley Trustee Vilair Fonvil was arrested by Rockland County detectives and charged with corrupting the government, grand larceny, money laundering and receiving reward for official misconduct. Fonvil was arraigned in Rockland County Court before Judge David Zuckerman, where his lawyer Kenneth Gribetz vehemently entered a “not guilty” plea on behalf of his client.
Also arrested and arraigned as part of the alleged criminal behavior was Jermika Depas who allegedly worked with Fonvil in connection with a program to transport children to and from a summer camp in the Town of Ramapo.
According to the indictment unsealed by the District Attorney’s Office in court, The Village Board of Trustees, at the request of Fonvil, passed a resolution in June 2016 authorizing a payment of $26,225 to Depas for transportation associated with a summer camp program. The resolution called for hiring of six bus monitors to be hired to supervise the children while in transit to and from the camp.
However, only three monitors were allegedly hired. According to the District Attorney, the three monitors were paid in cash and no W2 forms or other tax documents were issued. After a few days, it is alleged that Fonvil and Depas ceased utilizing the bus company and instead, used buses owned by the Village of Spring Valley.
Another resolution was passed authorizing an additional $3,750 to hire a bus driver. Instead of hiring a bus driver, it is alleged Depas hired one of the three monitors to drive the bus. It was further alleged that during the final two weeks of the camp program,
Depas, utilizing Spring Valley funds purchased three bank checks totaling $16,700 in the names of the two of the monitors and another individual, prosecutors said. Within hours of their purchase, the checks were cashed. According to the charges, over $10,000 of this money was given directly to Fonvil.
The indictment alleges that Fonvil paid $500 to the people to cash the checks and give him the money. If convicted of all charges, the defendants could face up to ten years in prison.
According to District Attorney Zugibe, “holding an elected office, especially one responsible for ensuring the safety of children, is a sacred trust. To use that position to line one’s pockets is an affront to democratic government and violates our most basic obligation to those we serve.” Both Fonvil and Depas were released on their own recognizance despite a request for bail by the District Attorney’s Office.
Outside of Court, Fovil’s attorneys Kenneth Gribetz, Esq. and Deborah Lowenberg, Esq. proclaimed their client’s absolute innocence. Gribetz stated that Mr. Fonvil is a long-time, dedicated public servant that will be cleared of all charges.
According to Gribetz, Fonvil will remain as a trustee and continue to serve the village while he defends himself against these charges. Fonvil also confirmed that he would be running for mayor this year, challenging Demezza Delhomme, who is defending himself against charges of official misconduct that could lead to his removal as Mayor of Spring Valley.
Trustee Fonvil has been Delhomme’s greatest antagonist. It was Fonvil’s former attorney Tony Gerard who launched the effort to impeach Delhomme.
The two men remain leading candidates for mayor of Spring Valley in spite of their problems. Previous Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin remains in jail on federal corruption charges stemming from the “Corridor of Corruption” case that also landed Malcolm Smith, Jay Halloran and other major figures in prison.
Fonvil won a prior fight with the Rockland DA’s Office. Approximately 14 years ago DA Michael Bongiorno brought charges of election fraud against Fonvil, who was found not guilty of a majority of the charges. An appeals court in Brooklyn dismissed the remaining charges several years later.
Dylan Skriloff contributed to this report