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Latimer Campaign Says Astorino's Rolex Watch 'Evidence Of Bribery'

Friday's tabloid headlines about a federal corruption probe of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Sen. George Latimer, a Democrat challenging County Executive Rob Astorino, said the Republican is another target of the government bribery probe. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino produced a receipt and credit card statement on Friday that he says proves he paid $1,960 for a second-hand Rolex watch. A witness in a federal corruption probe claims he paid the balance of the $10,00o watch Photo Credit: Provided/Friends of Astorino campaign

Campaign aides to State Sen. George Latimer say that the time frames and value of Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino's gold Rolex watch simply don't add up.

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While the Republican incumbent released receipts on Friday showing Astorino paid $1,960 for the watch, a witness in a federal corruption trial has said he covered the remaining balance of the watch valued at $10,000 in order to get special favors including a police chaplain parking placard. 

"Rob Astorino is caught up in his own web of lies that he can't even keep track anymore," said Andrea Grenadier, a spokeswoman for the Latimer campaign. "He claimed the purchase was 18 months ago, but the receipt is from 2013, the same time (Jona) Rechnitz was giving other contributions in exchange for political favors, including $15,000 in campaign cash to Astorino."

"If anything, this is more evidence of bribery: a Rolex mysteriously purchased for one-fourth its actual market value in the presence of a now-convicted felon who was shortly thereafter given a patronage position by Astorino," Grenadier said on Saturday.

Friends of Astorino campaign spokesman William O'Reilly said, "That's totally inaccurate."

"Jona Rechnitz is an admitted felon and a pathological liar," O'Reilly said on Sunday. "Rob Astorino bought a second-hand steel watch in October 2013 in the Diamond District for $2,000, not a new gold $10,000 Rolex as this prison bird falsely suggests. Mr. Astorino gave the receipt for the used watch to the Rechnitz prosecutors 18 months ago, and he hasn't been accused of doing anything wrong. Here again is tax deadbeat George Latimer desperately trying to change the subject of his household owing five years and $48,742 in back property taxes. It's not going to work." 

According to last week's federal testimony, Astorino gave Rechnitz and associate Jeremy Reichberg positions as police chaplains in exchange for financial contributions, despite neither being religious officials.

Rechnitz testified that Astorino requested a Rolex watch valued at $10,000, which Astorino reportedly contributed $1,000 to $2,000 towards -- with businessman paying the balance to cover up for the legal prohibition on gifts to elected officials. Rechnitz's JSR Capital donated $15,000 to Astorino's campaign three days after the appointment, with two other entities that share the same address, LTR Trading and Stephnat LLC, contributing $5,000 apiece, according to federal testimony.

Astorino campaign spokesman Bill O'Reilly called Latimer's claims  "total contrived nonsense."

"Rob Astorino did nothing wrong. He went shopping in the city for a second-hand watch a year and a half ago," O'Reilly said. "Mr. Rechnitz, who was in no trouble at the time, offered to help and took him to a store near his office in the Diamond District.

"Mr. Astorino was then offered the used watch for free. Mr. Astorino promptly declined and insisted on paying for it, which he did. He has the credit card receipt to prove it, which he provided to the authorities prosecuting Mr. Rechnitz. 

"Although this transaction occurred almost 18 months ago, Rob Astorino has never been accused of any wrongdoing by any federal or state prosecutor for any reason – again, he did nothing wrong.

"Furthermore, Mr. Rechnitz never spoke with Rob Astorino about a volunteer chaplaincy for himself or anyone else. Rabbi Reichberg served as an unpaid volunteer chaplain, appointed by the police department. The Westchester County Police severed his chaplaincy when the New York City scandal came to light."

Earlier coverage by the New York Post detailed former U.S. Prosecutor Preet Bharara's interest in Astorino's interaction with Jona Rechnitz as detailed here: 

Newsday also reported details of the this week's testimony here:

Bharara subpoenaed Astorino about dealings with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's financial backers Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg, who were linked to various pay-to-play scandals.

Earlier Daily Voice coverage can be found here: 

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