Spring Valley village Trustee Vilair Fonvil was arrested Tuesday on corruption charges accusing him of running a scheme to pocket money meant to pay for busing village children to camp last summer, Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe announced.
Fonvil was charged with four felonies: receiving reward for official misconduct; corrupting the government; grand larceny as a crime of public corruption; and money laundering.
Fonvil, 54, whose address was listed as 23 Devon Drive, West Orange, New Jersey, surrendered Tuesday morning to members of the District Attorney’s Office Special Investigation Unit.
Outside the Rockland County Courthouse in New City, Fonvil’s lawyer, Kenneth Gribetz, said his client would plead not guilty at his arraignment Tuesday afternoon.
“He’s devoted his life to the betterment of the village,” Gribetz said. “He served as a trustee, he’s a candidate for mayor and he firmly denies the charges and allegations against him, and he’s really looking forward to his day in court. He’s done so much for the village of Spring Valley. He’s lived here since 1974.”
Gribetz would not comment on whether Fonvil maintained an address in New Jersey.
If convicted, Fonvil faces up to 10 years in prison.
“Once again, we see a combination of hubris and greed corrupt a local official in Spring Valley,” Zugibe said. “Holding any 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.”
Last summer, Fonvil feuded with Mayor Demeza Delhomme over the village’s summer camp program. The mayor wanted to continue Spring Valley’s practice of sending children to the Martin Luther King Multi-Purpose Center, while Fonvil pushed for using Ramapo’s camps.
Just days before camp was due to open, a compromise was reached to divide $160,000 to send 50-60 children to the King Center and another 70 kids to Ramapo’s Camp Scuffy.
The charges brought Tuesday are the culmination of a probe by the Public Corruption Task Force, which is made up of the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office and federal and local law enforcement agencies. They follow a pair of searches of the village’s Justice Court and treasurer’s office carried out in March and April by the FBI, Zugibe’s office and the state comptroller’s office.