Andrew WhitmanNov 6, 2017, 2:59 pm

Investigating Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino’s Rolex claims

Political official has repeatedly denied campaign donor helped to pay for luxury watch


RYE — Did Westchester Executive Robert Astorino get help from a campaign donor to buy a Rolex watch in 2013? That was one of the claims made under oath in federal court last week from a man who's already pleaded guilty to bribery. Astorino has repeatedly denied the Rolex story, but questions remain.

Jona Rechnitz, who donated $25,000 to Astorino's campaign in 2013, testified he helped Astorino buy the Rolex. Rechnitz claims Astorino paid $2,000 for the $10,000 watch, with Rechnitz claiming he paid the rest.

Rechnitz is known to lie and pleaded guilty in an NYPD bribery case in June of 2016. But none of his claims about Astorino have been countered in court. Astorino denies Rechnitz helped pay for the watch.

"I bought a watch. It was down in the Diamond District and I paid for the watch," Astorino said.

To back up Astorino's claim, his campaign released receipts that show Astorino made a purchase of just under $2,000 from a Diamond District jeweler in October of 2013.The receipt doesn't contradict Rechnitz's claim that Astorino paid $2,000 and Reichnitz paid the rest of the cost of the watch.

In addition, the Astorino campaign released the Rolex’s warranty card. It shows the style number, 116610, that stands for a Rolex Submariner. The card also has other information to give one an idea of how much the watch is really worth, including the date the Rolex was first sold new, in April of 2013.
This is just six months before Astorino purchased it used on Oct. 16, 2013, and less than three weeks before he was re-elected.

The website of Tarrytown Jewelers lists a newer used version of the same watch, serial number 116610, for more than $7,800. Another from 2014 is going for $7,500.

Other websites list similar watches at $7,700, just under $8,000, a little over $8,000 and the cheapest just under seven grand.

FiOS1 News also reached out to seven different watch re-sellers in the region. None would talk camera out of fear of retribution or damage to their businesses. But on the phone they quoted prices between $6,000 and $8,000.

When asked about buying the watch for just $2,000, the sellers said those “numbers don't make sense,” that it was “under market value” and called the price “very low” and “super low.” But maybe all these stores are just overcharging.

"I mean, we're in the diamond district. Who the hell is gonna overpay in the Diamond District?" Astorino said.

FiOS1 News went to the Diamond District and found the store, Daniela Diamonds, where Astorino bought his watch.

The store had one submariner for sale about 20 years older than Astorino's. The store was selling it for $5,800.

When FiOS1 News mentioned that a customer claimed he bought a submariner there in 2013 for $2,000, the clerk said "maybe he confused the store“ and added no, it was not possible they sold a Rolex Submariner for $2,000.

Because it cannot be seen which exact watch Astorino purchased or what its condition is, the exact price remains unknown.

But the prices that turned up in the research, including from the store where Astorino's watch was sold, seem to make Jona Rechnitz's testimony more plausible and raises more questions about Astorino's claims.

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