The supervisor of a Greene County town and the owner of a manufactured home community there were indicted on federal criminal charges Friday November 8, 2019. The allegation is conspiring to fraudulently siphon thousands of dollars in federal storm aid intended to rebuild the land-lease community following a devastating 2011 flood.
The arrests of Prattsville town Supervisor Kory O’Hara, who runs an auto service shop on Main Street, and Stephen Baker, the owner of a manufactured home business, manufactured home community, and a motel, marked the culmination of a lengthy FBI-led investigation into the town of Prattsville’s use of more than $5 million in government aid.
“The federal indictment unsealed Friday charged O’Hara and Baker with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and theft concerning a program receiving federal funds. O’Hara is also charged with bank fraud and making false statements in a loan application,” all per the Times Union in a report linked here.
“The indictment indicates that between 2013 and 2015, Baker provided O’Hara, a Democrat, with false invoices from his modular home business, Moore’s Homes, which indicated he had done construction work on O’Hara’s automotive garage. O’Hara issued checks to Moore’s Homes for the work, which was never done, and Baker returned the money to O’Hara,” said the narrative by Brendan J. Lyons for the Times Union.
“Federal authorities said that through the scheme O’Hara fraudulenty [sic] obtained nearly $25,000 in grant funds after submitting falsified documents to Prattsville and the New York State Housing Trust Fund Corporation,” wrote Lyons.
“The indictment further alleges that, between 2014 and 2016, O’Hara submitted the same false invoices and fully reimbursed checks to the New York Department of State and office of the New York state comptroller to fraudulently obtain grant proceeds for Prattsville under the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program,” according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office. “In addition, the indictment alleges that O’Hara submitted other false invoices to obtain grant proceeds from the New York State Electric and Gas Corporation, and submitted the same false invoices and made false representations to NBT Bank … in applying for a business loan in November 2012.”
In 2012, Baker told the Times Union that his businesses had sustained more than $500,000 in damages when the town of some 350 year-round residents was “leveled” by flooding during Hurricane Irene in August 2011. O’Hara and Baker appeared with attorneys on Friday afternoon and pleaded not guilty when the charges in the indictment were explained to them by U.S. Magistrate Daniel J. Stewart.
After arraignment, they were released from custody while their case is pending.
William J. Dreyer, O’Hara’s attorney, told the Times Union two years ago that O’Hara “cooperated with the investigation and turned over what was requested of him.” Baker is represented by E. Stewart Jones of Troy.
O’Hara lost his family-run service station in the flood, and in 2013 characterized allegations of misconduct as “ridiculous.” He said they were politically motivated. All but one of the townspeople who spoke against O’Hara did so anonymously. “That tells you something about them,” O’Hara said.
Maybe O’Hara has a point, but it may not be the one that he is implying.
The mainstream story is a reminder that allegations of various types of criminal activity occurs within the manufactured housing industry. While thousands of ‘white hat’ firms should never be forgotten, nor should instances of allegations of corruption should be ignored. Regardless of the size of the firm or the relative ‘importance’ of those facing the charges, the law should ideally treat them all equally under the law. Naturally, the accused should be seen as innocent until proven guilty in court or by a plea or other settled agreement.
That’s your third installment today of manufactured housing “Industry News, Tips, and Views Pros Can Use,” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (News, fact-checks, analysis, and commentary.)
Submitted by Soheyla Kovach for MHProNews.com.
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