When jubilant supporters of Donald J. Trump watched their candidate declare victory on Election Night, one fervent booster was absent.
Having helped launch Trump on the path to the White House, Nojay didn’t live to see the final act. The Assemblyman and lawyer from Pittsford died by suicide two months before that historic Election Day.
Sandy King couldn’t help but think of Nojay’s absence as she watched Trump on television early in the morning of Nov. 9.
“One of the first things I said was, I wish that Bill Nojay was here to see this,” recalled Sandy King, who chairs the Yates County Republican Committee.
Nojay, who was 59 years old, had been one of the Trump campaign’s New York co-chairmen. He was a prominent surrogate to whom the local and national media turned for comment on Trump’s positions. He was quoted on the front page of the New York Times and for a time, was a familiar face on CNN.
All of that was cut short by his death on September 9, the day he was to appear in federal court to answer to a charge he had embezzled more than $1 million.
Nojay only rarely spoke publicly about the role he’d played much earlier, one that has received little attention in his hometown until now.
Nojay and King were among a small group of New York Republicans who went to Trump Tower in late 2013 in hopes of persuading the building’s namesake to run for governor.
Andrew Cuomo, then in the third year of his first term as governor, was popular with Democrats but scorned by Republicans, especially those from upstate. They were eager for a replacement.
“It was Bill Nojay, myself and a few other people who were looking for somebody who’d be able to run against Andrew Cuomo. Bill and I had a conversation that fall and he took it from there,” King said. “Bill and others were instrumental in getting the meeting set up.”
Nojay wrote a four-page memo consisting of poll numbers and political arguments that made a case for a Trump gubernatorial run. It found its way to the New York City businessman, who thanked him for it and then set up a meeting.
Nojay and a few other Republicans went to that first meeting at Trump Tower in November, according to a 2016 New York Times story about the formative months of Trump’s candidacy.
A larger group, including King, went to New York City in early December. Further sessions were held in January 2014.
“At the time it seemed he definitely had an interest in running,” said Trisha Turner, then the deputy chair of the Ontario County Republican Committee, who attended one of the gatherings.
It turned out Trump had no real interest in running for governor. He was, however, interested in talking about the presidency.
Trump had flirted with the idea off and on for years, most recently having briefly considered running against incumbent president Barack Obama in 2012. He was considering the idea anew in 2013, raising funds for an exploratory committee and making political speeches to Republican groups.
“Springboards to the Presidency.”
During one of the December get-togethers, Nojay had presented the fruits of his own research into the qualities that make up successful presidential candidates.
In so doing, he also laid out a blueprint for a Trump presidential bid.
“Bill said he arrived in his spacious office and Trump was waiting for him. He was very affable. His whole family was also there to meet Bill, at least most of them — but certainly his son, daughter Ivanka and his wife plus two more,” recalled a long-time friend, Carlton “Bud” DeWolff, to whom Nojay often confided in about his meetings with Trump.
“Bill said that Trump told him that he was possibly running for president. He asked him what he thought. Bill said that the nation needs a different type of President, perhaps an entrepreneur type.”
But Nojay warned Trump that “would almost be impossible because any candidate that has run (successfully) was a governor, politician or a high-powered military officer,” said DeWolff, who recently shared some of his memories of the Nojay-Trump connection with the Democrat and Chronicle.
Trump would need another way to connect with voters. And Nojay knew just what he should do.
He laid out his ideas in another memo, entitled “Springboards to the Presidency.”
Nojay argued that prior service in elected office was the most direct way to establish a connection to the average voter. Experience showed that having a sparkling military record or a compelling rags-to-riches story would work as well, Nojay wrote.
Trump could not boast any of those qualities. But Nojay laid out another pathway — one that, in retrospect, seems to be precisely the one followed by candidate Trump.
The candidate must have a “clear mission” that appeals to many voters and is delivered “under circumstances of urgency or near-crisis.
“This is the candidate as indispensible (sic) problem-solver of a ‘must solve’ problem.”
Those words call to mind the campaign that Trump eventually ran. He took to the campaign trail to assert, darkly, that the nation was in a shambles — hemorrhaging jobs, riddled with crime, threatened by ISIS — and that only he could provide solutions and “make America great again.”
At the end of the meeting that day, DeWolff said Trump thanked Nojay and told him “he would have to think seriously in light of their conversation.
“Bill called me the next week and told me that Trump had called him two times and said that he needed some more advice from Bill,” DeWolff recalled.
In a later television interview with WROC-TV, Nojay said he visited Trump five times altogether.
Today, there is no clear indication to what extent Trump drew on Nojay’s advice to craft the combative grassroots campaign that won him the presidency.
A request for comment to the White House drew no response. Several other insiders, including Republican operative Roger Stone, who also attended some of those early meetings, also did not respond to requests for comment.
The New York Times story conspicuously featured Nojay’s role but drew no conclusions. Nojay dodged the question in the WROC interview.
Turner, of Ontario County, said she thinks Trump charted his own course. “Certainly he had conversations with people, including Bill Nojay, but I don’t think Bill Nojay talked him into running,” she said. “Trump’s his own person.”
DeWolff said he didn’t hear any more about Trump until he announced his candidacy in June 2015. Nojay told his old friend then that Trump had asked him to help run his campaign, but Nojay had declined.
“I asked Bill why. He said ‘I really believe he does not have a chance,’” DeWolff said.
Nojay, a frequent tweeter, did not note Trump’s announcement on Twitter, and he tweeted very little about Trump’s candidacy until late in 2015.
But then, as the first caucuses and primary loomed, Nojay began to talk up Trump more and more on Twitter and on the radio.
In February, he traveled to New Hampshire to campaign for Trump, and in April he helped arrange Trump’s visit for a rally at Greater Rochester International Airport.
He told DeWolff then that “Trump has amazed him, but he is still skeptical.”
That was the last time DeWolff and Nojay talked about Trump.
Not long after, FBI agents informed DeWolff that Nojay had been trying to gain control of a company in which the two were involved. Agents returned in August 2016 to inform the architect that he had been victimized by Nojay’s million-dollar embezzlement.
A few scant weeks later, on a typically colorful day for the Trump campaign — he called Hillary Clinton “unstable” and quoted scripture to a Christian group — Nojay died.
Two months later, Trump was president.
-Excerpt and images courtesy of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/local/blogs/watchdog/2017/03/15/nojay-helped-trump-toward-presidency/99005234/
Memo on Why Trump Should Run for New York Governor
An October 2013 memo sent to senior New York State Republicans urged them to consider Donald J. Trump as the party’s nominee for governor.
How a GOP Candidate Can Beat Cuomo
The closest recent statewide election was the 2010 State Comptroller race; using it as a model but projected on New York as it exists in 2013… If a high-interest candidate such as Trump is on the ballot, the NYC numbers will be higher due to general population excitement; it will be necessary to balance the higher turnout with focus on the NYC electorate. This means the Gov candidate needs to spend most of his time in NYC/LI while allowing the Lt. Gov. candidate to handle Upstate, riding a solid platform which will appeal to Upstate voters (mandate relief, lower property taxes, job creation with special appeals to manufacturers, school reform, and repeal of the Cuomo gun laws). LI will be the 3rd battleground; the key will be: (a) high taxes, (b) Albany corruption, (c) the Father & Son gift to LI: highest utility rates in the nation, (d) making LI’s economy stronger/jobs.
Who Can Run on the GOP Line and Beat Cuomo
— There is only one prospective candidate who could run on the GOP line and win against Cuomo in 2014 – Donald Trump.
— In many respects Trump is not considered a Republican — he is his own brand, an almost iconic figure of Rockefellerian proportions. This will benefit him because many people who could never bring themselves to vote for a Republican would vote for Trump as Trump. Therefore the Dem voter registration advantage would not be so formidable an obstacle as with other GOP prospects.
— Cuomo is not well liked by ANY segment of the NY political class, including Democrats; I have yet to meet a single Democrat member of the Legislature who can stomach him and in private conversations they indicate they won’t lift a finger to help him in 2014, focusing their own organizations on the Leg and down-ticket races.
— Although Cuomo should have upwards of $50M in his campaign accounts by mid-2014, and that amount is beyond reach of any other GOP candidate, a self-funder like Trump would be in a similar position to Bloomberg last cycle whose $107M to win the Mayor’s race overwhelmed the best funded Dem Establishment candidate (Thompson).
— Trump is right on the issues for NY in 2014: Upstate’s economy is a shambles; Cuomo is holding endless feel-good press conferences announcing new government econ development programs (e.g., tax free zones) which are gaining him little traction.
Upstate, the SAFE Act (Cuomo’s anti-gun law) is the most hated piece of legislation in NY’s modern political history, producing a new category of single issue voters with the potential for 500,000 anti-Cuomo votes (Paladino lost in 2010 by 1.4 million).
NYC is about to see its first truly radical Mayor, a man who still reveres the Sandinistas, honeymooned in Havana, and self-describes as a believer in liberation theology (i.e., Marxism). By 2014 a pro-business, proven executive will be welcome to offset DiBlasio.
LI’s economy is relatively strong however residents are faced with highest-in-the-nation taxes, highest-in-the-nation utility rates, etc. and there is an uneasy feeling things could unravel fast without a pro-business. A campaign that focuses on “making the Empire State the nation’s leader in producing jobs” will resonate with skittish LI voters.
Why Donald Trump Should Run for NY Governor in 2014
— If history is a guide to the future, DeBlasio will wreak havoc unless a strong Governor checks him; Cuomo sounds tough but backs down too quickly when faced with political blowback, will allow the economy to tank under higher taxes/DiBlasio policies
— He is the right age; it’s showtime; now or likely never
— His kids are old enough to run the family businesses; Bloomberg’s net worth more than doubled while he was Mayor so it doesn’t necessarily cost anything and may be profitable (even Golisano made another $Billion while running for Gov)
— If he doesn’t, Schneiderman is the favorite to succeed Cuomo as Governor.
— “Do you want to be remembered as a successor to FDR or Alex Trebek?”
— in short, Trump has been-there-done-that with everything else; this is the only place for him to go
— No one in U.S. history has won the White House without first holding high public office (Eisenhower had never been elected to anything, but was Supreme Commander in WWII; all the rest had been state or national elected figures before going to the WH); the Governorship of NY is one of the top positions in the country to influence policy and politics.
— If Trump runs, it will be easier for the GOP to recruit qualified and viable candidates for State Comptroller and Atty General, which would make governing easier. DiNapoli is very vulnerable; Schneiderman less so but a strong GOP candidate would keep his numbers in check.
— If Trump runs, the State Senate could swing back to GOP hands with wins in the 4 Upstate Districts held by Dems which should be in play: Ted O’Brien (Rochester area), David Valesky (Syracuse area), Cecilia Tkaczyk (west side of Hudson Valley) and Terry Gibson (east side of Hudson Valley including Dutchess/Putnam counties, Poughkeepsie). Otherwise, Skelos’ last 2 years’ fumbling the GOP brand and 3rd string campaign team will make that goal very difficult if not impossible for the GOP and may result in further losses on LI, putting the Leg is solidly Dem hands.
-Excerpt courtesy of The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/03/05/nyregion/new-york-governor-analysis-donald-trump.html
‘Springboards to the Presidency‘ Memo
A memo sent to Donald J. Trump in December 2013 detailed how he could increase his chances of winning the White House if he first ran for governor.
Exhibit A lists the careers and springboard positions held by the 43 men (Obama is the 44th President, however Grover Cleveland was elected twice) who have held the Presidency. Aside from serving as Vice President, the most common springboard position is to be a Governor (19 of the 43), and New York is the most common State to rise from Governor to President (4 of the 19).
There are various theories about why all the Presidents have previously held high public office (or, conversely, why no one has ever been elected President without having previously served in high public office), which distill down to:
1) Why Businessmen Don’t Run
— Private businessmen assess risk weighing potential benefits (holding office) versus the downsides: risk of losing and the attendant impact on personal reputation / ego / family embarrassment (most politicians consider running when they have young children and a non-working spouse); and loss of income from serving in government. Capable, successful businessmen almost always conclude they can do better for themselves and their families by staying in the private business sector. Politicians, on the other hand, often have no alternative source of income or perceive their chances in politics are better than their chances in business (e.g., Harry Truman went bust as a mens’ clothing salesman and turned to politics to feed his family).
— Businessmen are accustomed to taking risk, however business risk is often partially assigned, buffered or diluted with partners, alliances or vendors, insurance or legal shields such as the corporate veil which reduce personal exposure. Political risk, on the other hand, is purely personal and almost impossible to allocate – the risk of loss is 100 percent on the candidate (blaming campaign managers or other outside factors is usually regarded as lame; the candidate is regarded by the public as solely responsible for his campaign). This is a risk profile which most businessmen are unaccustomed to and are unwilling to accept. (Note: it is common for start-up/small business owners to have 100% personal liability, but they are so consumed with their work they never even consider entering the political arena; the comments above re: willingness to assume risk are relevant for later stage business owners who are considering the political arena and are comparing limited personal risk in business with unlimited ego/reputational risk in politics.)
— The “loss of income” analysis has a much larger role than academics normally ascribe. Many politicians are lousy businessmen or otherwise couldn’t hold a job in the private sector, which is why they gravitate to politics, starting in a local appointed or elected position and then “takin my opportunities when I seen ‘em”. Whereas the businessman sees politics as a personal high-risk venture, politicians see politics as the most risk-averse vs. high reward approach to making a living.
2) Why Businessmen Don’t Win, Even When They Try
Businessmen who have been successful and then consider political office later in life typically face three major obstacles:
(a) By the time in their life cycle when they reach that level of financial stability, they are not willing to make the physical sacrifice of running in a grueling State or national campaign, which involves long hours, extensive travel, extremely high stress levels, and sheer physical demands of being a candidate (e.g., Rudy Giuliani was willing to make the sacrifice as a younger man running for Mayor, but following success in business and the advance of years was unwilling to throw himself into his own Presidential campaign’s demanding pace, was perceived by voters as lazy and uncommitted, and thereby lost otherwise winnable primaries);
(b) By the time in their life cycle when they consider running, their work habits have been well established and locked-in – the problem being that what works in business is typically not successful in running a major political campaign. Unwillingness to shift into a political mode with staffing, marketing strategy, budgeting and the candidate’s personal involvement (out of the office, into the receiving lines, small group interaction with sometimes demanding voters, and endless chicken dinners) — typically due to the candidate’s refusal to move out of his comfort zone — leads to a losing campaign; and
(c) Businessmen may think anything is possible in a short period of time, if only they are smart enough about implementation and spend enough money. It is true that a national campaign must be smart and well-financed, however the essential missing link is the candidate’s bond with voters. The best campaign plan and plenty of money will not elect a bad candidate. Example: Tom Golisano, Founder/CEO of Paychex, who had no base/connection with voters but was convinced by fee-motivated advisors that he could win the race for Governor if only he was “all in” with spending enough money, which he did – which got him 17 percent of the vote.
3) What It Takes to Win: Success in Politics Requires a Political Base, Which Comes from a Personal Relationship between Candidate and Citizens.
The most common mistake made by first-time candidates is the belief that they are already known and accepted as political leaders, or that they can buy that acceptance by explaining to voters (with enough campaign spending) how smart they are.
— Even experienced politicians need a “connection” to voters which humanizes them, makes them “touchable” by average voters, and respected enough to serve as their leader. The most common connection to average citizens has historically been military service during wartime, and a reputation for being “Old Hickory” or a “Rough Rider” or a war hero (JFK on PT109, even if his heroism was largely fabricated, since his opponent Nixon was perceived as just playing poker while a supply clerk in the Pacific).
— For those without military careers, some other connection to average citizens has been essential; a personal struggle to overcome adversity is often that connection (FDR’s illness, Bill Clinton’s childhood poverty and alcoholic father, Jimmy Carter’s peanut farmer hometown boy complete with redneck brother, Bush43’s struggles with alcohol and religious redemption).
— If that connection proves difficult to establish, a clear “mission” for the candidate which is highly appealing to voters (e.g., job creation, “a chicken in every pot”) can substitute, but only if it is delivered by a credible candidate under circumstances of urgency or near-crisis. This is the candidate as indispensible problem-solver of a “must solve” problem.
— Barack Obama’s victory over Hillary Clinton in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012 can be reduced to his personal connection to voters (kid who started with nothing who worked his way up thru Columbia and Harvard, he plays basketball, is adored by rock stars) over those of his rivals (Hillary as cold and calculating, arrogant and distant; Romney pummeled by the perception he was a distant, cold-hearted businessman with an undercurrent that Mormanism was somehow “weird”. It was likely no accident that one of the leading cable shows in the run-up to Romney’s candidacy (broadcast 2006-2011) was “Big Love” which painted Mormans as nutty and viscous, with a background theme of the subjugation of women… run on Left-leaning HBO and produced by major Democratic Party campaign supporters including Tom Hanks).
4) 2016 Electoral College Math Requires a GOP Candidate to Run Strong in NYS, Which is Easier if a Candidate Has Pre-existing Acceptance / Support from NYS Voters
The math of the Electoral College makes it increasingly necessary for a GOP candidate to at least make either CA or NY competitive, forcing his opponent to devote resources there. Otherwise, the GOP candidate is essentially spotting his opponent almost a third of the Electoral College votes needed for the Presidency.
New York is more vulnerable than California as a battle ground state. There is no prospect for a GOP win in a statewide race in CA before the 2016 Presidential Primaries. Being successful in the 2014 NY Gubernatorial race immediately positions the victor as a leader for the 2016 GOP Primary and General election contest. Thus, within a three year period an effective candidate could wrap the whole thing up (something, btw, Hillary Clinton and Bobby Kennedy were both trying to do in their times, but failed for unrelated reasons).
— All 43 Presidents have previously served in high public office before running successfully for the Presidency. This is not an accident of history – Americans vote for candidates they have a personal connection with – there must be a bond.
— The most common path to the Presidency is through a Governor’s office (19 out of 43) and the most common Governor’s office to hold is New York (4 out of 19).
— The bond between voters and candidate can be achieved through common experience (military service, personal trial/tragedy that ordinary people identify with), or building a political base (geographic or ideological), or by credibly establishing a link between an urgent or near-crisis problem and the candidate’s unique ability to solve it.
— Presidents with prior careers in the private sector (in the 20th Century: Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bush41, Bush43) all successfully transitioned/spring boarded to the White House by first holding State or federal office (Congress or Governor’s office).
-Excerpt and images courtesy of The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/03/05/nyregion/donald-trump-new-york-governor-president.html
Bill grew up in the City of Rochester; his dad Norm worked at Eastman Kodak; his mother Kay was a school teacher. In 1974, when he was 17 years old, Bill attended the first Conservative Political Action Conference (now known as CPAC) in Washington where he got Ronald Reagan’s autograph before watching him deliver his “City Upon a Hill” speech. It was an inspiration and laid the foundation for Bill’s political beliefs and future work supporting democracy movements around the world.
While in his early 20s, Bill went to college, took up parachuting and traveled in the Middle East and Asia. He spent time in an Israeli kibbutz, toured Iran before the 1979 Revolution, and traveled across the former Soviet Union on the Trans-Siberian Railroad.
To pay for college and his first car, a Dodge Dart with the Chrysler slant-6 engine he bought from his dad, he had jobs as a night janitor at Eastman Kodak, in the research department at the International Monetary Fund in Washington, and in the Washington offices of U.S. Senator James Buckley of NY, and U.S. Senator Gary Hart of Colorado. He also had a job as Smokey the Bear in a National Park Service body suit, lumbering around shopping malls with a sign about not starting forest fires.
After graduating from Columbia University’s schools of Law and Business, Bill worked in New York City before returning to his hometown of Rochester, where he served with the following community organizations:
- President, International Business Council of the Chamber of Commerce, creating jobs by increasing exports of Upstate products
- Director and Treasurer of the Al Sigl Center, a cooperative of agencies serving disabled and special needs youth and adults
- Chairman, Monroe County Sports Commission, providing amateur sports programs for the regions young and veteran athletes
- Director, Vietnam Veterans Memorial of Monroe County
Bill co-authored the only book ever written on New York sales taxes on manufacturers, and frequently lectures to business finance professionals and accountants at tax compliance seminars. His law practice focused on helping start-up companies and small businesses secure financing and organizing to launch or grow their businesses, creating jobs and growing Upstate New York’s economy.
In 1995, New York Governor George Pataki named Bill to be Commissioner and Chairman of the State agency that runs the public transportation system in Rochester and surrounding counties. He was also a member of the Executive Committee of the Genesee Transportation Council, the federal agency that plans and allocates federal funds for highway, bridge, freight and other transportation projects throughout the nine-county region in Upstate New York. While serving these roles, Bill was the only public official to oppose taxpayer dollars for the Fast Ferry to Toronto.
In 1998, Bill was appointed by Governor Pataki to be the Chairman of a State agency which funds legal services for the elderly, disabled, and other low income New Yorkers. He worked to shift funding away from politically active groups and toward not-for-profit agencies which effectively assist persons in need.
Bill spent five years as an EMT and ambulance driver with the Pittsford Volunteer Ambulance Service. He saw firsthand the negative impacts of dramatically increased, State-mandated training and paperwork requirements on volunteer ranks and is committed to working to reverse them. Bill believes volunteerism is not only a financial issue for Upstate towns but a part of the fabric of our culture we need to protect.
In September, 2008 Bill was a Delegate to the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis.
In 2010 Bill became Chairman of the U.S. Army’s Community Advisory Board in Rochester. In 2011 he attended the Strategy Implementation Program of the U.S. Army War College. In 2012 he was invited to participate in training programs for future U.S. Army officers at Ft. Knox, KY.
Bill is now a small business owner, attorney with the law firm Hiscock & Barclay, and the host of a daily radio show which is heard on several stations around Upstate New York. The show’s production studio is WYSL in Livonia, Livingston County, broadcasting on 1040AM and 92.1FM. His show’s first affiliate station was WLEA -1480AM in Hornell, Steuben County.
Over the years, Bill has worked on over 20 local, state and federal campaigns for Republican candidates who identified themselves as fiscal conservatives fighting to protect Upstate New York’s traditions and way of life. Bill has been a member of the Brighton, Pittsford and City of Rochester Republican Committees, and in September, 2008 served as an official Delegate and Member of the New York Delegation at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis. Bill continues to fight for candidates who share his commitment to the future of our region.
Throughout his adult life, Bill has worked to support democracy movements abroad. Inspired by Ronald Reagan’s leadership during the closing years of the Cold War and his belief in the power of individual rights in a democracy, Bill believes citizens should direct their government, not the other way around.
After college, Bill lived in Nepal, a country lodged between India and Tibet. He held the title Research Fellow at Tribhuvan University, which at the time was simmering with what became an uprising that eventually overthrew the country’s monarchy.
In the 1980s Bill went to Cambodia without the benefit of a visa but with courtesy of Task Force 80. He worked to assist a group of democracy activists called the Khmer People’s National Liberation Front (KPNLF).
Upon his return he worked in Washington to support the KPNLF’s pro-democracy efforts in the halls of Congress and with other interested parties. The Cambodian democracy movement was ultimately successful; Cambodia is now a fledgling constitutional democracy and rebuilding after decades of war.
Bill was in Ukraine during the Orange Revolution of 2004, where he was posted in Kharkov, eastern Ukraine, then to Yalta and the Crimean. He spent Christmas 2004 in Kiev where a tent city of 1,000 Ukrainians successfully challenged their government to allow honest voting.
In 2005 he was in Afghanistan to monitor elections with a delegation from the International Republican Institute.
Later in 2008 he travelled in Libya, observing during Ramadan celebrations how interested the young people were in American schools and politics after decades of repression under Col. Gaddafi. Their unrest later gave rise to the so-called Arab Spring.
In 2010 Bill went back to Ukraine for the Presidential elections, where he monitored elections in Uzhgorod which is north of Transylvania near the Carpathian Mountains.
Bill is currently a Director and Secretary/Treasurer of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran. FDI supports the Iranian democracy movement from inside and outside Iran and has a Board that includes various long-time pro-democracy activists.
Personal and Family Life
Bill’s parents Norm and Kay live down the road from Bill’s family home. Bill’s wife Debbie grew up in the North County of the Adirondacks and is a nurse with a not-for-profit agency providing care to the developmentally disabled. They have raised three children; two are in college and one is a Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Bill has been coach of his daughter’s travel soccer team and Odyssey of the Mind team, and when his 12 year-old son decided to take up kayaking, Bill took lessons with him, almost drowning while learning something called an Eskimo Roll. He later joined the Board of Directors of the Genesee Waterways Center, which promotes kayaking and canoeing in the area, and remains an enthusiastic kayaker along with his wife Debbie.
Bill is a member of Outlet Rod & Gun Club and the Genesee Conservation league. He shoots pistol and trap; he is a member of the NRA and the Shooters Committee on Political Education (SCOPE). Bill is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment.
Bill is a Baptist who supports religious freedom and opposes government intrusion into religious life and practices.
Whether working to create jobs in Upstate New York or traveling overseas to support democracy in countries whose people look to America as a beacon of hope, Bill has fought for jobs and a free economy, individual rights and a government that answers to its citizens.
-Excerpt and images courtesy of the Internet Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20160315190912/http://billnojay.com:80/aboutBill.php
US Politician in Cambodian Fraud Case Commits Suicide
By Khuon Narim — September 12, 2016
A New York state assemblyman who was among the defendants in a high-profile fraud case at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court fatally shot himself on Friday in a graveyard in Rochester, part of his district in upstate New York.
William Nojay, 59, also a radio talk show host, attorney, entrepreneur and father of three, was among four men sued by a Phnom Penh dentist for fraud after she invested $1 million in an agricultural firm that never began operations.
The other defendants are Sichan Siv, a former U.S. ambassador to the U.N.; Richer San, a prominent Cambodian-American businessman in California; and Thomas Willems, a businessman from Texas. Akra Agriculture Partners, the firm at the center of the case, was meant to lift up Cambodia’s farmers by boosting production and opening new markets.
Though his involvement in the firm remains somewhat unclear, William Nojay’s name appeared on some of the company’s accounts, according to lawyers for Eng Lykuong, the dentist who claims she was defrauded.
The politician had previously dismissed claims of any wrongdoing in the case, and said he was simply caught up in a personal dispute between Ms. Lykuong and Mr. San.
According to the Democrat and Chronicle, a newspaper in Rochester, the case in Cambodia was among a number of legal problems facing the politician, who was up for re-election later this month. In its extensive reporting on his suicide, the newspaper said his problems in Cambodia were not his most pressing concern.
William Nojay was facing criminal prosecution for charges related to the alleged disappearance of funds from an account he managed for a longtime legal client and friend, architect Carlton DeWolff, a partner in a project to modernize a city school, sources told the newspaper.
“I’m still in shock,” Mr. DeWolff told the newspaper on Friday. “He was always an upstanding person. He always treated me good up until this Jordan thing,” he added, referring to the criminal case.
Michael Caputo, director of Donald Trump’s New York state Republican primary campaign, told the Democrat and Chronicle that William Nojay was “as conservative as they come, a reliable voice for those values against the greatest odds.”
“And he was indefatigable, which makes this news even more shocking,” he was quoted as saying.
The grief was not shared by Ms. Lykuong and her family.
“Dr. Lykuong got her justice. One of the cheaters accepted his fraud,” the dentist’s brother, Eng Lykhoing, wrote in a post to Facebook along with a news article about the suicide. “He sentenced himself without disturbing the court. R.I.P.”
Ms. Lykuong said yesterday that her lawyer in the U.S. had been hounding William Nojay in recent months, but that he refused to cooperate.
“I think it is a good thing to show the court that they really cheated me,” she said of the suicide.
The trial is set to continue at the municipal court on September 27, according to Ms. Lykuong’s lawyer, Orn Hing.
-Excerpt and image courtesy of The Cambodia Daily: https://english.cambodiadaily.com/editors-choice/us-politician-cambodian-fraud-case-commits-suicide-117867/
Stolen money funded Nojay campaign, opponent asserts
By Steve Orr and Gary Craig, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
William R. Nojay funded his 2012 campaign for state Assembly with more than $100,000 in stolen money and a deeper investigation into his campaign finances is needed; a political opponent asserted Tuesday.
Nojay was criminally charged in September with fraud in connection with $800,000 he embezzled from a legal escrow account he controlled, according to court papers that were unsealed Monday in response to a motion filed by the Democrat and Chronicle. The Pittsford Republican killed himself Sept. 9 — the day he was expected to answer those charges in federal court.
A portion of the money that he admitted to embezzling was used for “his campaign for election to the New York State Assembly,” the court papers state, adding that he intentionally “concealed the origin of these funds.”
Nojay misused $800,000, feds allege in criminal complaint
The papers did not say how much of the purloined money was used for his 2012 Assembly race, in which Nojay won both a September Republican primary and the general election in November.
But campaign finance records show that Nojay contributed $106,263 to his campaign committee in 2012. That represented 91 percent of all the money contributed to the committee that year. Most of Nojay’s contributions were made before the primary.
Barbara Baer, the Democratic candidate against Nojay this fall, said she has no independent verification that all of that $106,000 was stolen money, but believes that to be the case.
Regardless, the use of any stolen funds to bolster his campaign finances, she said, was “a violation of the public trust.”
Randy Weaver, a Democrat who lost to Nojay in 2012, said he doesn’t think Nojay’s spending that year was crucial to his victory. The Assembly District 133 is heavily Republican, making it difficult for a Democrat to win, Weaver said.
“Basically this district is gerrymandered as it basically votes party line,” said Weaver, a pharmacist in Hornell, Steuben County.
Baer, however, said she is outraged by Nojay’s actions. “To take money and run for office … is really a violation of everything I believe in,” said Baer, a non-practicing lawyer who lives in Pittsford.
Nojay was seeking re-election to the Assembly this year, and killed himself just four days before the Republican primary.
By law his name remained on the ballot for the primary, which he won. Republican Party leaders then were allowed to chose a replacement for the November ballot, and selected Joe Errigo, a former state Assemblyman from Conesus, Livingston County.
Errigo defeated Baer in November with 57 percent of the vote.
Baer argues that Nojay’s 2012 election was tainted by the use of stolen money, and that his victory that year “started a ripple effect that has given the voters short change for four years.”
She said authorities should continue to probe Nojay’s finances and determine, among other things, if Republican leaders or anyone else had knowledge of the source of the 2012 campaign contributions.
“Somebody has to know something. You can’t do all this and not have somebody know. It’s just inconceivable,” Baer said.
Monroe County Republican Party chairman Bill Reilich said Tuesday he was “shocked” by the revelations about Nojay’s finances, but said he knew nothing about the source of Nojay’s campaign funds.
“In terms of any candidate’s campaign account … I never see it. I never see what does or doesn’t go in or where it comes from,” said Reilich, who monitors the party’s own campaign-finance accounts but customarily has no reason to look at the filings of individual candidates.
Nojay self-funding his 2012 campaign wouldn’t raise any red flags, he said, as it’s not unusual for candidates to give or loan money to get their candidacies started.
The papers filed in Nojay’s criminal case say his diversion of funds from the escrow account ended in April 2013.
Campaign finance records show no significant contributions by Nojay to his campaign committee after 2012. In 2016, Nojay had raised less than $4,000 at the time of his death. Nojay’s only contribution this year was $734 he spent to pay two campaign-committee bills with his own money, the records indicate.
-Excerpt and image courtesy of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2016/12/20/opponent-calls-for-deeper-nojay-probe/95646406/
The Nojay investigation: A timeline
By Gary Craig @gcraig1
A timeline of the federal investigation in the month before Bill Nojay killed himself, according to prosecutors in their court filing:
AUG. 8, 2016: FBI notified federal prosecutors that “it had uncovered apparent fraud by Nojay.” FBI then collects papers and correspondence from architect who was alleged victim. Federal authorities have not identified the architect; the Democrat and Chronicle has reported that it is Carlton “Bud” DeWolff, who did not initiate the investigation but was approached by the FBI.
AUG. 16: FBI serves Nojay with a “target letter,” saying he is facing criminal charges. Nojay refuses to be interviewed, and refers agents to his attorney, Donald Thompson.
AUG. 19: Nojay and Thompson meet with FBI, and are informed of specific pending criminal charge. Nojay is offered chance to help “in connection with an investigation of other matters” in exchange for leniency. Nojay asks for time.
AUG. 24: Nojay, having agreed to cooperate, admits to crime of wire fraud. FBI thinks Nojay is being untruthful in discussions of other matters. Nojay says it would be hard for him to help “without arousing suspicion.” FBI asks Nojay to bring computers to next meeting.
SEPT. 6: Nojay brings desktop computer, which he had scrubbed of information with software known as BleachBit. Federal authorities press Nojay for information about other matters, and “he persisted in providing a version of events that, with respect to particular details, the FBI did not believe was true.”
SEPT. 8: Nojay consents to polygraph, which starts in the afternoon and goes into evening. Polygraph “indicated deception by Nojay with respect to certain details concerning the other matters under investigation.” Nojay would not alter his “story regarding these details.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Field tells Nojay criminal charge filed and he is to appear in court the next morning. Nojay told he can self-surrender, but there likely would be a news release about the alleged crime.
Later that evening, Thompson calls Field, asking whether court appearance could be pushed off if Nojay could get someone else to cooperate. Field said he would discuss with superiors, but a decision had been made in discussions with the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.
SEPT. 9: Scheduled to appear in court on this morning, Nojay fatally shoots himself.
-Excerpt and image courtesy of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2016/12/19/nojay-investigation-timeline/95634620/
Bill Nojay’s misdeeds play out in court as FBI investigation continues
By Steve Orr, and Gary Craig — Democrat and Chronicle
A year and five months after state Assemblyman Bill Nojay shot himself to death in a city cemetery, the accusations against him of fraud and thievery continue to echo through Western New York and beyond.
Nojay took his life the morning of Sept. 9, the day he was to turn himself in on a federal fraud charge that he had embezzled nearly $1 million from a long-time friend. With a Rochester policeman nearby but too late to intervene, Nojay died near his brother’s burial plot.
Why Nojay made the painful decision he did on Sept. 9, anguishing his family and friends, will never be known. But an investigation into Nojay’s affairs by the Democrat and Chronicle found just how profoundly the world was closing in on him that day.
Nojay, who preached fiscal constraint and moral rectitude from his political soapbox, was about to be revealed as a thief: Just days before he died, he had scammed a huge sum of money from a second friend to repay the first, robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Speculative business deals on two continents had collapsed, and he was accused of the same sort of government corruption he had railed against so often.
And the Democrat and Chronicle investigation has uncovered new details of these civil and criminal entanglements, many of which outlive him:
- The FBI public corruption investigation that led agents to uncover Nojay’s theft last spring is continuing today. The investigation initially focused on Rochester’s huge school modernization program. The target or targets remain unknown.
- Nojay and the money he pilfered were also at the heart of a lengthy civil suit in Rochester that neither the FBI nor the public knew about. The proceeding was sealed by the court to protect the reputations of Nojay and other parties.
- In a desperate bid to stave off criminal charges and civil ruin, Nojay obtained $700,000 from a benefactor to partially replenish the stolen funds. That benefactor now says he was conned by Nojay and may bring suit to recover his $700,000.
- At least a half-dozen legal actions are pending against Nojay’s estate. Some stem from speculative business deals and most accuse him of fraud. Aggrieved parties are seeking millions of dollars in damages and a public administrator is stretching to satisfy as many claims as he can.
Nojay, who was 59 when he died, was a city boy who grew up to be a Pittsford lawyer and politician with an affinity for rural agribusiness and a keen interest in international affairs.
He was a provocateur with a daily radio show and a reputation as the most conservative member of the state Assembly. An early and influential supporter of President Donald Trump, he was known for his generosity toward non-profits and charities.
Yet the newspaper’s investigation shows a darker side, a man whose misdeeds caused his universe to collapse in the space of a month last summer — the worst of it coming in a single day in August.
The cobweb of charges and counter-charges started years ago in the most unlikely of locations — the Middle Eastern country of Jordan.
The money from Jordan
The mountain rises from the rugged Jordanian countryside, in a place called Na’ur not far from the capital city Amman. From the small peak’s crest, which is dotted with trees, one can see the Dead Sea, the lowest spot on Earth.
King Abdullah II, the ruler of that Middle Eastern nation, had decided the mountain would become home to a magnificent new cancer treatment and research center named for his late father, Hussein.
The project’s managers chose Rochester architect Carlton “Bud” DeWolff, then in the fifth decade of a successful, inventive career, to design the medical institute. In October 2005, DeWolff signed a $9.1 million contract to carry out the work.
His lawyer for the project was his long-time associate and friend Bill Nojay.
Nojay, who specialized in business law, subsequently was named escrow agent, making him the financial middleman between the two parties. The Jordanians would transfer money to pay DeWolff into an escrow account. The architect would submit an invoice and, if the Jordanians voiced no objection, Nojay would send the money on to DeWolff.
DeWolff’s design was for an accessible, organic complex that was welcoming, not intimidating, to patients and families. King Abdullah, whose quasi-governmental development fund paid for the project, was said to be most pleased with the concept.
Things went well for a time. DeWolff and his associates prepared detailed designs for the King Hussein Institute for Biotechnology and Cancer, and builders began erecting the building’s frame. Millions of dollars passed through the escrow account without incident.
But by 2009 the Jordanian project managers had begun to complain that DeWolff’s team was falling behind schedule. DeWolff had his own grievances with the project owners, though court papers do not spell out what they were. The parties renegotiated their contract to reduce DeWolff’s workload.
But tensions worsened and in 2010 the Jordanians, claiming language in the revised contract gave them more control over fees, directed Nojay not to pay out any more funds from the escrow account.
DeWolff demanded the money in the account — slightly more than $1 million — be released. Nojay, arguing he was caught in the middle, declined to do so.
The architect eventually quit the project, which has never been finished, and the two sides sparred for several years over money. The Jordanians said they’d overpaid and DeWolff complained he’d been shorted. They met in London with a mediator in 2014 but failed to resolve their differences.
As they bickered, the money sat in the escrow account untouched for years — or so DeWolff and the Jordanians believed. What they had no way of knowing was that their escrow agent, Bill Nojay, had begun to loot it.
‘Allegations of public corruption’
In September 2015, with Nojay’s theft of money from the DeWolff escrow account still a secret, an event occurred that, in retrospect, contributed mightily to his downfall: A New Jersey businesswoman decided she’d had enough of trying to work with him.
That woman, Barbara Armand, owner of a construction management firm, was a principal in a startup company that had just been given a lucrative program management contract in Rochester’s gigantic $1.3 billion school modernization campaign.
Mayor Lovely Warren, who said Armand was the right person to play a leading role in the company, had engineered the contract’s approval.
The titular head of the company, recruited for the role by Bill Nojay, was Bud DeWolff. The Assemblyman, who had voted against the state legislation that authorized the modernization program, had helped create and organize the company and intended to be a paid employee or a partner. He’d help draft the documents that were used to select the program manager.
He had gone to considerable lengths to conceal his involvement from the public and from the board that voted to award the contract, however.
But in mid-September Armand unexpectedly informed modernization officials she wasn’t comfortable working with Nojay, who she accused of asserting undue influence over their affairs.
Armand’s resignation from DeWolff EPIC, as the company was known, was its undoing. Warren pulled her support and the company’s multi-million dollar contract was rescinded. Nojay’s involvement became an open secret among people in local government. His digital fingerprints were found on the selection documents.
It was at about this time, in the autumn of 2015, that the FBI began to look into the DeWolff EPIC contract. The case was one of “allegations of public corruption,” as a document filed in Nojay’s criminal case puts it.
DeWolff knew nothing about it at the time. The following May, he told a reporter that FBI agents had just visited him and told him Nojay had been going behind his back. “That was a shock but they showed me proof,” he said.
The FBI inquiry into the school contract led to related matters, including what the criminal complaint described as “suspicious campaign finance activity.” That refers at least in part to an independent political action committee that backed Warren’s insurgent campaign for mayor in 2013, three independent sources have told the Democrat and Chronicle. As the newspaper reported last year, Nojay worked covertly for that committee.
The political action committee was created shortly before the Democratic primary that fall by Albany lobbyist Robert Scott Gaddy, an associate of both Nojay and Warren. Gaddy provided the PAC with $40,000. He and Nojay, who worked through a Florida shell company that disguised his involvement, spent the money producing pro-Warren radio ads and literature.
Warren said this week that she did not know Gaddy was behind the PAC until later, and had no idea of Nojay’s involvement until last year.
Federal authorities said in court documents that some of the money Nojay took from the fund had been given to a “registered New York state lobbyist” who they chose not to name. Asked recently if Nojay had given him money, Gaddy said he had gotten nothing from the escrow account. Federal authorities declined to answer which state lobbyist they allege was the recipient of the money.
While the FBI refuses to discuss its investigative steps, the criminal complaint against Nojay says agents had reviewed his financial records. His bank statements would have shown when he removed money from the escrow account and what he did with it.
Armand, whose email the day after she’d resigned may well have triggered the FBI investigation, has never spoken publicly about DeWolff EPIC and Bill Nojay. The Democrat and Chronicle could find no one in Rochester who has spoken to her since mid-2015, and has been unsuccessful in numerous attempts to reach her at her company’s offices in New Jersey and New York City.
Asked if they had interviewed Armand, FBI officials declined to comment.
As for Nojay, he apparently had no idea in the fall of 2015 that the FBI was interested in his activities. When asked in May by a Democrat and Chronicle reporter about his involvement with the school modernization company and with the pro-Warren PAC, he said it all had been above-board and motivated by altruism.
He hinted darkly that Armand and others had conspired to torpedo DeWolff EPIC. “It smells bad, but welcome to New York politics,” he said.
‘Not that Mr. Nojay would ever do that’
As federal investigators began to sniff around Nojay’s apparent misuse of escrow account funds in the fall of 2015, a civil lawsuit was unfolding a few miles away from their office that involved that very same pot of money.
The case had been filed in the spring of 2015, but the FBI had no way of knowing this, however, because the matter had been sealed from public view by court order.
The suit had been brought by Bud DeWolff. It had been five full years since the Jordanians had ordered the Pittsford lawyer to withhold payment from their architect. DeWolff had finally gone to court to demand release of the $1 million that he believed was being held for him in the escrow account for which Nojay was the agent.
At the parties’ initial appearance before state Supreme Court Justice Matthew Rosenbaum in June 2015, a lawyer had given utterance to what would prove to be one of the more ironic statements ever made in a Rochester courtroom.
“What happens, goodness forbid, if Mr. Nojay, you know, did something that — with the funds he wasn’t supposed to,” a lawyer for the Jordanians, Philip J. Loree Jr., said during oral arguments about hypothetical problems with the escrow account. “Not that Mr. Nojay would ever do that.”
But Nojay already had.
As million-dollar lawsuits go, DeWolff v. Escrow Agent for a Certain Escrow Account, as the matter was entitled, was dry as toast. It revolved around seemingly contradictory clauses in the agreements between DeWolff and the Jordanian sponsors of the cancer institute.
What may have been most unusual about it was that its very existence was concealed from public view until now.
Shortly after the case was assigned to Justice Rosenbaum in the spring of 2015, he signed an order to seal the matter “in consideration of the parties involved, the sensitivity of the subject matter and in general the interests of the public.” There would be no public record of the case.
All of the attorneys agreed to the sealing, with the Jordanians’ attorneys apparently concerned about the possible release of proprietary information and Rochester-area lawyers wanting to ensure Nojay’s reputation was not tainted by the litigation. “He was a public figure,” said John Dreste, one of DeWolff’s lawyers.
Moving the case behind closed doors was allowed under court rules, but nonetheless an unusual step for a civil action over money. Rosenbaum said he could not discuss litigation that he had ruled upon.
Rosenbaum unsealed the case earlier last month at the request of the Democrat and Chronicle.
After oral arguments and the filing of written pleadings, Rosenbaum ruled in January 2016. Rosenbaum ruled that the Jordanians did not have the right to block payments to DeWolff from the escrow account.
To Nojay, who was a party to the lawsuit but played no active role in the arguments, this would have been a red-letter day: Under court order to pay out the $1,050,000, he couldn’t do it. The money no longer was there.
The Pittsford attorney had begun dipping into the escrow account in 2009, according to information in the criminal complaint filed against him last September. He continued to take money from the account until April 2013, the complaint said.
The Jordanians appealed Rosenbaum’s decision, which delayed the day of reckoning for Nojay. But in early August, the parties decided to abandon the appeal and settle the case. DeWolff would get everything in the escrow account and that would be the end of it.
Nojay was told to release the funds, which he’d told the parties totaled $1,054,160.
He dragged his feet, insisting that Rosenbaum issue another written order directing him to give the money to DeWolff. On August 11, Rosenbaum signed such an order.
“It was sent directly to Nojay via email,” recalled Curtis Dehm, another of DeWolff’s lawyers in the case. “There was an email or two that went back and forth. The tone was ‘Yep, no problem.’”
But the money didn’t arrive.
Five days later, the other shoe dropped when Dreste received a telephone call from a lawyer who said he represented Bill Nojay.
The lawyer, Donald Thompson, hinted to Dreste that Nojay was in legal trouble and he made it clear his client would be unable to provide the $1,054,000 that was due to DeWolff.
But he could offer a partial payment of $700,000.
“That’s all there was. He said Nojay would do whatever he could to come up with the rest — someday,” Dreste recalled.
Did they want the $700,000? They weren’t sure what was really going on, but they said yes.
‘The polygraph indicated deception’
On Aug. 16, the same day that Bud DeWolff and his lawyers learned the Jordanian money was missing from the escrow account, Nojay was told by the FBI that they believed he had stolen it.
Agents approached him and asked to speak to him about it. He refused and directed them to his lawyer, Thompson.
That both the civil suit and the criminal investigation came to a head at precisely the same time was, those involved now say, a complete coincidence.
Ultimately, Nojay met at least four times with federal authorities. Investigators presented him with evidence that showed he had transferred money from the escrow account to his own account and spent that money to satisfy his own needs and desires.
Nojay admitted his guilt, according to documents filed in federal court, and signed a written statement to that end.
He also agreed to cooperate with the FBI in their original, still on-going investigation of “public corruption,” federal authorities said in court filings.
Those filings make clear the government wanted Nojay to provide evidence against others who were involved in the allegedly corrupt activities, which reportedly involved the school modernization contract or related matters. At one point agents asked Nojay to aid the investigation through “proactive cooperation” — shorthand for becoming an informant, perhaps even wearing a wire.
Nojay demurred, claiming “it would be difficult for him to do so without arousing suspicion,” one document reads.
Thompson, Nojay’s attorney, is still vexed that the matter reached such a point, especially since Nojay was working to repay DeWolff. He said similar cases are often resolved through methods other than a criminal prosecution — with authorities settling the matter through a civil action and a disciplinary action against an attorney via a legal grievance committee.
“I think some people get special attention because of who they are,” Thompson said. “Other people in the same circumstances don’t get the same kind of treatment from the government. And, by treatment, I don’t mean good treatment.”
But those arguments held no sway. Nojay, long a strident political critic of state and federal government and what he saw as their over-reach, was under the FBI’s thumb.
But he did resist in one way, authorities say — by shading the truth. In their court documents, authorities allege repeatedly that Nojay gave them untrue answers to questions about the corrupt activities they were looking into.
Still, in spite of their conviction that he was being untruthful, federal authorities made a decision that could have impeded that corruption probe and, in retrospect, appears unwise.
Nojay had used computers or phones to carry out his diversion of funds from the escrow account. Those devices may have contained evidence of the “public corruption” the FBI was trying to root out.
But instead of trying to obtain a subpoena to seize Nojay’s computers, mobile phone and other digital devices, or accompanying him to his home or office to pick them up immediately, federal authorities agreed to let Nojay bring them to their office.
Two weeks later, he dropped off a single desktop computer. To their chagrin, agents discovered Nojay had used special software to erase all traces of emails and other data on the hard drive. Later, after Nojay’s suicide, authorities did get a search warrant to seize a cellphone and another computer. It’s not clear if other digital devices or stored data remain undiscovered — or what the devices contained.
Federal authorities claim that the scrubbed computer was not a setback.
“The assumption that the government had no knowledge of the contents of Mr. Nojay’s computer at the time he was asked to surrender it is a false assumption,” Acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy Jr. said in a statement responding to questions from the Democrat and Chronicle. Kennedy’s statement did not address how investigators could have known the computer contents.
Also, Kennedy said in the statement, federal authorities were still trying to determine whether Nojay was sincere in claims that he would help with the investigation.
“Indeed, the government, fully aware of the evidence it had already had in its possession, made the investigative determination that asking Mr. Nojay to surrender his computer would aid in its assessment whether Mr. Nojay’s professed desire to cooperate was genuine,” Kennedy said.
Not long after the scrubbed-computer episode, agents gave Nojay one more chance to tell them what they wanted to know. They hooked him up to a lie detector and gave him a lengthy exam, court records say.
Nojay allegedly flunked. “The polygraph indicated deception by Nojay with respect to certain details concerning the other matters under investigation,” a court document states. Confronted with this duplicity, he “refused to change his story.”
That was the last straw. That night, Nojay was informed that a criminal wire-fraud charge would be filed against him. He was told to appear in federal court the next morning, Sept. 9. Nojay asked if there was a way to keep the charge from the public eye, and a federal prosecutor bluntly said no. He was told that “as a sitting Assemblyman, Nojay should expect substantial media coverage,” court records say.
Thompson maintains that prosecutors wanted a dog-and-pony news conference to brag to the media and public about how they’d brought criminal charges against a prominent state lawmaker. Federal prosecutors have answered in court papers that they followed a standard protocol and gave Nojay ample opportunity to assist them and, in turn, himself.
Still, the evening before he was to turn himself in, late-night negotiations continued, according to court papers from Assistant U.S. Attorney John Field, the prosecutor on the case. During those talks, Thompson relayed an offer from Nojay to recruit “another person” to cooperate with the corruption investigation, Field wrote in court papers, but this offer did not change plans to criminally charge Nojay the next morning.
On the morning of Sept. 9, as lawyers and a federal magistrate waited at a courtroom in the downtown federal building, Nojay took his own life at the family plot in Rochester’s Riverside Cemetery.
‘Mr. Nojay is gone’
Slowly, in one court filing and judicial ruling at a time, details of the growing list of allegations against him have emerged.
Nojay had been a partner in a company with an ambitious plan to process and export rice from Cambodia. But the partners were accused of misappropriating a $1 million investment by a wealthy Phnom Penh dentist.
On Sept. 27, three associates were convicted of fraud in the case and later sentenced to a year in prison. The charges against Nojay were dropped because of his death.
But a civil action filed in Texas later last fall against Nojay’s estate and his former associates alleges the $1 million disappeared after passing through Nojay’s lawyer escrow account in Rochester. No specific allegation has come to light that Nojay took any of that money, but not all of it has been accounted for.
The lawsuit is pending.
In December, a lawyer for the Democrat and Chronicle persuaded a federal judge to release the criminal complaint, sealed upon his death, that laid out the federal fraud charge against Nojay.
The complaint alleged that Nojay took about $800,000 from the escrow account.
What Nojay did with it has not been fully explained, though he seemed to have used the funds as his own personal piggy bank.
Nojay allegedly used an unspecified amount to pay property taxes on his home, an obligation on which he was chronically late. He gave money to his children, prosecutors say. And he used some to buy or repair a car.
He allegedly sent money to “entities in which he held a financial interest,” including $221,000 in November 2012 to support a business in Pennsylvania.
That likely refers to Wellsource Nutrition, which Nojay and another man started in October 2012 to buy an animal feed firm. The undertaking fell flat on its face and left Nojay’s estate embroiled in a multi-million dollar fraud suit in Philadelphia. A related $950,000 judgment has been filed in Rochester against Nojay and the other man.
An unspecified amount from the DeWolff account money was allegedly given to the unidentified lobbyist in Albany — and stolen money bankrolled Nojay’s successful run for a vacant state Assembly seat in 2012. The district includes Pittsford and three other Monroe County towns, all of Livingston County and part of Steuben County.
Another Republican, Richard Burke, had already announced his candidacy for the seat. Burke, a business consultant from Avon, said recently that he loaned his campaign $75,000, a large sum for an upstate Assembly race, in hopes of demonstrating the seriousness of his candidacy.
But Nojay jumped into the race and matched Burke’s stake, contributing $75,000 to his own committee during the primary campaign. He used the money to flood mailboxes with glossy mailers, a tactic Burke chose not to match.
Nojay won the primary and, two months later, beat a Steuben County Democrat to claim the seat. He raised and spent about $120,000 overall, including $91,000 that he gave to his own campaign.
The FBI criminal complaint alleges that at least some of that money was stolen from the escrow account.
It was not until January that the Democrat and Chronicle learned of the civil suit stemming from the dispute over fees between DeWolff and the Jordanians — a dispute that dragged on for six years, during which time Nojay was able to help himself to money in the escrow account without fear of discovery.
When the suit was resolved in August, DeWolff was given $700,000 by Nojay with the promise that the balance due, $354,000, would come later.
DeWolff recently filed suit against Nojay’s estate to recover that amount. As a back-up, he also filed a claim for that same amount with the Lawyers Fund for Client Protection, a state agency that compensates people who have been victimized by their attorneys.
Now yet another fraud accusation has come to light, one connected in a sad but all-too-real way to the DeWolff dispute.
Friend in need became another victim
This past August, as a Rochester judge was signing an order directing Nojay to turn over the $1 million to DeWolff — money that Nojay had pilfered long before — Nojay turned in desperation to another old friend.
That friend, Livingston County businessman Leslie Cole, loaned Nojay $700,000 the very next day. The money was placed in the escrow account Nojay maintained for his law clients, but Nojay wired it to DeWolff the following week, court records show.
Cole now says in court papers that he was defrauded, suggesting he made the loan to Nojay for reasons that turned out to be specious.
The benefactor who bailed out Nojay was, in fact, another victim.
Cole is an owner of Commodity Resource Corp., a successful Livingston County firm that leases bulk storage facilities to feed and grain suppliers. Nojay was counsel to the company. Through his lawyer, Cole declined to comment for this story.
After Nojay died, Cole learned from media reports that Nojay had been accused of embezzling money from the DeWolff escrow account, and feared the same thing had happened to him. In October, his lawyers obtained a court order to see the records of Nojay’s lawyer account. Those records verified that Cole’s $700,000 had wound up in DeWolff’s hands.
The lawyers have now asked Justice Rosenbaum, who also was assigned this case, for another order compelling DeWolff and Nojay’s estate to turn over records related to that fund transfer.
Cole’s lawyers have also filed a claim with the Lawyer’s Fund in Albany. Court filings say Cole also may file suit against Nojay’s estate and DeWolff for the return of the $700,000 on the grounds that DeWolff benefited from Nojay’s “fraud (and) breach of contract.”
Potentially then, two victims of Nojay’s embezzlement could square off in court over money that he stole from each of them at different times.
How did this all come to be? No one has stepped forward to admit they knew that a larcenous bent lurked behind Nojay’s often-affable countenance.
“All of this totally blindsided us,” said Robert Savage, who owns WYSL-AM, the Avon radio station where Nojay hosted a daily talk show for years. “We never saw any sign of it. We were like a small family. He’d come down here and laugh it up and yuk it up. All this other stuff, all of his business dealings, I literally knew nothing about them.”
Yet the facts give rise to the possibility that Nojay’s diversion of funds from DeWolff’s escrow account, the theft that brought on the criminal charges, may not have been a one-off.
That remains to be seen, after events in the courtroom have played themselves out, after the FBI finishes its corruption investigation and after yet another lawyer — Frank Iacovangelo — concludes his own inquiry.
Iacovangelo, a Rochester attorney, has a long-standing appointment as Monroe County’s public administrator. In that role, he administers the estates of people who die without a will or whose families and executors are not able or willing to carry out those responsibilities.
At the family’s request, he is handling Nojay’s estate.
Iacovangelo’s task will be to ferret out every bit of money to Nojay’s name, and to make sure his bills and legal obligations are satisfied as much as they can be.
It has fallen to him, more than anybody, to make sense of the former Assemblyman’s financial history and look for both hidden cash and undiscovered excesses.
“Right now I’m still doing a lot of research. I can only tell you that there’s a lot that we need to look at,” Iacovangelo said recently. “Mr. Nojay is gone. If we have questions, we have to put the pieces together ourselves to determine what really happened.”
TIMELINE OF EVENTS
October 2005: DeWolff begins work on Jordanian medical center, Nojay is escrow agent
August 2009: Contract renegotiated, signaling tensions
September 2009: Nojay begins to steal money from the project escrow account
April 2010: Jordanians instruct Nojay to withhold payment to DeWolff from the account
March 2011: DeWolff quits the project
November 2012: Nojay, his campaign funded by money stolen from the escrow account, is elected to state Assembly
April 2013: Nojay makes final diversion from escrow account
March 2015: DeWolff files suit asking to be paid $1.053 million from the account
May 2015: Justice Matthew Rosenbaum agrees to Nojay request to seal the case
September 2, 2015: A startup company bearing DeWolff’s name, with Nojay as a silent partner, is chosen for a multi-million dollar Rochester school modernization contract
September 16, 2015: Approval of the new DeWolff company is withdrawn after another partner quits, claiming interference by Nojay
October 2015: The FBI begins looking into the school modernization contract. Through that probe they learn of the escrow theft
January 2016: Rosenbaum rules in favor of DeWolff, but defers enforcement while the Jordanians appeal
May 2016: D&C publishes an investigation of the school modernization contract and other Nojay business dealings. The FBI interviews DeWolff
August 9, 2016: Jordanians and DeWolff settle the case, agreeing the architect can have the $1.054 million thought to be in the escrow account
August 11, 2016: Rosenbaum orders Nojay, who has been dragging his feet, to release the money to DeWolff
August 12, 2016: Nojay borrows $700,000 from business associate and friend Leslie Cole, citing grounds that Cole later said were fraudulent
August 16, 2016: Nojay uses the money from Cole to make partial payment to DeWolff. Nojay is confronted by FBI agents, who inform him he is a target in a criminal fraud investigation involving the money he took from the escrow account
September 9, 2016: Nojay kills himself the morning he is to appear in court on fraud charges
Where to seek help
The Rochester Community Mobile Crisis Team provides immediate, 24-hour intervention for individuals and families experiencing a mental health crisis and can be reached at (585) 275-5151.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Western New York chapter provides outreach to those who have lost a loved one to suicide, as well as educational programs and training. Call (585) 202-2783 or email email@example.com.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be called 24 hours a day at (800) 273-8255 or contacted online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org
-Excerpt and images courtesy of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2017/02/17/bill-nojays-misdeeds-play-out-courts-fbi-investigation-continues/97692360/
Bill Nojay, Upstate Assemblyman, Dies After Shooting Himself at a Cemetery
By Vivian Yee, Sept. 9, 2016
The Bill Nojay Show always started the same way: martial music, crowned with a menacing voice-over that offered a grim portrait of the State of New York — its government, its criminals and its “intolerable tax burden.”
“Can anyone save New York?” it intoned. “Is it worth saving?”
Then the doomsaying made a little room for hope.
“One person thinks so.”
That person was Mr. Nojay, daily radio talk show host, Republican state assemblyman, early booster of Donald J. Trump and, on Friday, a victim of suicide: He fatally shot himself in a Rochester graveyard as police officers raced to check on him.
It was an abrupt end to a life that had burst all the borders of a local political career, combining nation-building in Ukraine with battling for gun rights in New York; unshakable conservative conviction with a certain fondness for liberal opponents; and apocalyptic predictions with self-deprecating wit.
Toward the end, one of Mr. Nojay’s greatest dreams — shepherding Mr. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, within reach of the White House — had come true, even as controversy, and at least one federal investigation, had begun lapping at the assemblyman’s feet.
Suicide is impossible to pin on any one factor, and there was no way to say on Friday what had driven Mr. Nojay, 59, to his. But a number of his business dealings outside the Assembly had drawn the attention of federal investigators, one involving possible fraud in an agricultural marketing business he had started in Cambodia. On Friday, according to The Democrat & Chronicle of Rochester, he was to appear in court to face charges that he had embezzled $1.8 million from a legal client.
By the usual laws of Albany, Mr. Nojay, a junior upstate Republican in a legislative chamber dominated by New York City Democrats, should never have come within sniffing distance of prominence.
But then, he never limited himself to the backbenches. Not in the Capitol. Not in the headlines. Not in his goals.
Even his political-awakening story stood out: He said the moment came when he was 17, during a trip to the first Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, where he listened starry-eyed to President Ronald Reagan’s “city upon a hill” speech and shook Mr. Reagan’s hand. As a teenager, another push into local politics came from his family’s experiences caring for his severely disabled older brother. He got his law degree from Columbia Law School and practiced law in his native Rochester before winning his Assembly seat in 2012.
There was his audacious pitch, as a freshman lawmaker, to Mr. Trump: Run for governor of New York, he told Mr. Trump in 2013, and the path to the White House would be clear. (“Springboards to the Presidency,” Mr. Nojay’s four-page memo was called.)
Three years later, he was a co-chairman of Mr. Trump’s New York campaign committee.
There was his penchant for speaking up for upstate concerns, using his radio show to denounce state leaders in Albany — Democrats and establishment Republicans — for what he called their indifference. Among his signature issues: railing against the SAFE Act, the New York gun-control legislation passed in 2013.
“I’m not on the governor’s Christmas card list, and you know something? That’s something I wear as a badge of honor,” he said on Thursday, in one of his final radio interviews. “Because I think that when you forcefully and strongly advocate for your district and you make that mark, even people that disagree with you respect your views.”
The force of Mr. Nojay’s advocacy was not lost on anyone in the Legislature: “You knew exactly where he stood,” said Brian Kolb, the Assembly minority leader. “He ruffled feathers because he spoke it as he saw it.”
And there were his far-flung business and nation-building ventures. In Afghanistan, he was an election monitor with the International Republican Institute. In Odessa, Ukraine, he consulted on an election between pro-Western and pro-Russian candidates. In Iran, he held the title “director and secretary/treasurer of the Foundation for Democracy,” according to his Assembly biography.
In Cambodia, which he said he had visited for various reasons since the 1980s, he started an agricultural marketing business with three partners, including Sichan Siv, the Cambodian-American former United States ambassador to the United Nations. The Akra Group, as it was called, solicited a $1 million investment from a wealthy Phnom Penh dentist around the end of 2012, said her American lawyer, Robert A. Simon. By 2014, Mr. Simon said, Akra showed no signs of marketing rice or of returning the $1 million, and his client, Dr. Lykuong Eng, filed a fraud complaint in Cambodia.
Despite being tried in absentia on and off since 2014, Mr. Nojay had brushed off the Cambodian investigation. “He said there’s nothing to it, just a feud among partners — one of them was disgruntled,” said Bill Reilich, the Monroe County Republican chairman, who knew Mr. Nojay for 20 years. Mr. Nojay was, he added, “kind of nonchalant” about the matter.
By this spring, federal agents in Rochester had subpoenaed documents related to the Cambodian investment from Mr. Simon, he said on Friday.
“It’s a shock,” said David DiPietro, a Republican assemblyman from the Buffalo area who was close to Mr. Nojay. “All of a sudden, hearing all these rumors, it’s amazing what you don’t know about somebody.”
Mr. Nojay faced a primary challenge on Tuesday. He lived in Pittsford, near Rochester, with his wife, Debra, with whom he had three children.
At 9:20 a.m. on Friday, a 911 call came in to the Rochester police, asking that they check on someone on at the Riverside Cemetery, a police spokesman said.
An officer arrived at the cemetery six minutes later, just as Mr. Nojay’s gun went off.