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.