The former President of the Monsey Fire Commission, Nathan Rothschild, is facing up to 33 months in prison for attempting to arrange a real estate fraud in order to pay off a $125,000 debt to two former business partners. The 54-year-old Rothschild, who also served as president of the East Ramapo Board of Education, pleaded guilty in federal court to the charge that he recommended that his partners purchase $700,000 worth of property, promising them that he would then have the fire district buy the land from them for over a million dollars. The fire district was considering acquiring the property for a new fire station and housing for volunteers.
In an effort to have the judge grant him probation, Rothschild argued for leniency, citing a number of mitigating factors. These included claims that his actions were conducted while he was under duress and experiencing mental illness, that he subsequently felt remorseful and tried to prevent the sale from going through, that his creditors had concocted the idea, and that his family would undergo emotional duress while he is in jail.
In response, the prosecutors accused Rothschild of trying to dupe U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Karas and called his acceptance of responsibility “laughable.” In a lengthy sentencing memorandum filed late last week, Assistant U.S. Prosecutor Douglas Bloom described recorded conversations between Rothschild and his creditors – wherein he could be heard outlining the scenario to potential buyers, who were actually working with federal investigators – along with documents detailing his attempt to exploit his position to swindle taxpayers. “He was a long-serving elected official who attempted to defraud the very people who elected him,” Bloom wrote. “This is not an isolated incident of fraud, and his new-found expressions of remorse ring hollow in light of his continued effort to deny facts that are inscribed on tape and paper, and are simply incontrovertible.”
According to the court papers, Rothschild said, “If you can get the other houses, you can make a profit on that. Just so we understand this, so at the end of the day, if a transaction like that would happen, my debt to you is reduced by $600,000.” Rothschild was fully aware that this type of deal amounted to a felony crime, as he was recorded informing his creditor during a telephone call in April 2010, according to the sentencing memorandum. “I can’t write a plan and I don’t know if you should, because we can offer it and you can make any notes you want. It’s a felony,” Rothschild said. “What we’re discussing here is a felony. But, I’m, it’s the only way to get your money back. You have to be creative. The simplest one is, the fire department is prepared to buy right now.”
In July of 2010, the fire commission approved the purchase of the property at $125,000 above the amount paid for it by Rothschild’s creditor. Rothschild abstained on the vote and apprised his fellow commissioners regarding his financial benefit from the sale. Last April, Rothschild openly admitted to Judge Karas that he knew his actions were illegal; he has been free since then on $100,000 personal bond.
Immediately prior to the federal charges in April 2011, Rothschild resigned from the East Ramapo Board of Education. He had previously been removed by vote from the Monsey Fire Commission after a fifteen-year term on the board.
Rothschild also has a civil suit pending against him, as he has been sued by his two ex-partners for potentially millions of dollars involving a marketing firm that sold promotional items, such as mugs or T-shirts, with a client’s name and logo. The former fire commissioner has denied accusations that he committed fraud, broke contracts and used other methods to cheat his partner out of money and not repay loans. The lawsuit — filed in 2009 by Elliot Kahan and Daryl Halger of Ramapo — seeks a minimum $34.7 million judgment against Rothschild, his wife Toba, and company employee Kathryn Mazzella.