Ramapo Samuel Tress expected to resign, plead
Ramapo Councilman Samuel “Shmuel” Tress is expected as soon as tonight to resign from office and plead guilty to official misconduct, according to sources familiar with the case.
The plea deal, which would drop a felony charge, would likely enable Tress to avoid jail time in the case.
Tress, 71, a Democrat who won election in November despite a federal mail fraud conviction, is accused of voting for a zone change on a housing development he held a financial stake in — even though he had signed an affidavit stating he wouldn’t profit from his decisions as a Zoning Board of Appeals member.
Under the plea agreement, Tress must send a letter to Ramapo resigning from the councilman position he’s held since January. He also is expected to face a fine.
The Airmont Justice Court session is scheduled for 5 p.m.
Rockland District Attorney’s Office detectives arrested Tress in March on a felony count of first-degree offering a false instrument and the misdemeanor charge of official misconduct.
Ramapo Town Attorney Michael Klein declined comment on Thursday, as did Executive Assistant District Attorney Richard Kennison Moran. Tress’ attorney Michael Gilbert of Manhattan did not return a telephone call seeking comment.
The resignation would end Tress’ short career as an elected official. Tress won election to a four-year term in November running with Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence and Democratic Councilwoman Brendel Logan-Charles. He succeeded Democrat Daniel Friedman, who lost a September 2015 primary after he lost community support following a falling out for his criticism of St. Lawrence.
The all-Democrat Town Board would be tasked with appointing someone to fill the open seat.
Tress was a longtime member of the Zoning Board of Appeals before running for town council. He admitted to The Journal News in October 2015 that he owns a home in Lakewood, New Jersey, but claimed he spent most of the week in an Kearsing Parkway apartment in Monsey. He is the CEO of East Morgan Holdings, a Lakewood, New Jersey-based remediation company.
Court records show Tress pleaded guilty in December 2004 to a felony charge in a federal fraud case. He admitted he falsely assumed an identity to obtain a home mortgage loan from a bank in connection with the purchase of a home in Spring Valley. He was sentenced in March 2005 to three years of supervised release.
Tress’s recent arrest came after the District Attorney’s Office detectives scrutinized his ZBA vote on May 4, 2015, to approve eight zoning variances for what was then a single-family house at 142 Blauvelt Road in Monsey. The grassroots political party Preserve Ramapo provided the prosecutor’s office with more than 100 pages of documents on Tress.
Tress on May 14, 2015, had filed a disclosure affirmation with the town asserting that he had not and would not engage in any activity that would provide a personal or pecuniary gain to himself in relation to his duties as a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals, prosecutors contend.
Tress denied to a Journal News reporter that he profited from the ZBA approval.
Documents obtained by The Journal News before the arrest, however, showed Tress and his wife contracted to sell the single-family house for $500,000 to builder Samuel Wettenstein of Spring Valley in May 2013. Wettenstein obtained a demolition permit from Ramapo for his plan to build three condominiums and three accessory apartments on the property.
But the couple ended up with a 40 percent share of the property when the development stalled and Tress and his wife were still owed $150,000, according to town documents on the variance vote and a November lawsuit Tress filed against the buyer. The case was dropped last month, according to a document on file with the Rockland County Clerk’s Office.
Tress’s potential conviction adds to the list of politicians facing or sentenced for corruption charges in Rockland County, where District Attorney Thomas Zugibe’s office is part of an anti-corruption task force working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan.