Golf course manager faces charges of bill fraud

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The golf entrepeneur with a long-term contract to renovate Suffolk's Bergen Point Golf Course will surrender Tuesday to face charges of filing $133,800 in false equipment bills from a company that did not exist, a spokesman for District Attorney Thomas Spota confirmed Monday.

Neal Trabich, president of Global Golf Inc., will be arraigned in First District Court in Central Islip to face three felony counts of filing a false instrument, said Spota's spokesman, Robert Clifford.

Trabich, 55, of Laurel Hollow, did not return calls for comment to his home or office Monday.

But his attorney, Alex Bateman, said Trabich "and Global Golf are in compliance with the terms of the contract. The company has generated signficant revenue over the years for the county and he has done an excellent job of renovating a course which was in dire need of repair." From 1993 to 2000 alone, county parks officials say Global paid Suffolk $1.9 million in fees.

Trabich used his 1992 contract at the links in West Babylon as a launching pad for other municipal contracts -- from the pro shop at Bethpage State Park, site of the 2002 U.S. Open, to historic Saratoga State Park, where Global operates two courses, the pro shop and a restaurant adjoining famed mineral baths.

The district attorney's probe arose from an audit that County Comptroller Joseph Sawicki started in January to determine whether Trabich had fulfilled the requirement of a five-year contract extension to invest $750,000 to improve the golf course. After three "questionable" invoices surfaced, Sawicki turned the information over to Spota's investigators in March.

According to Sawicki, Trabich filed three invoices with county parks officials for a total of $133,800 for the purchase of seven pieces of used equipment including a lawnmower, a soil aerator and a tractor.

But auditors determined there was no state record of incorporation for Atlantic Equipment and Supply, the corporation listed on equipment invoices. Sawicki added that parks officials could never locate the equipment at the Bergen Point site. The address of the purported company was an East Northport residence, said Sawicki.

"We could not ascertain the existence of the company ... and therefore the invoices are fictitious and appear to be fraudulent," said Sawicki.

While the Suffolk contract paved the way for Global's expansion, Trabich's company has also come under fire previously.

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When Global's contract came up for renewal in 2002, Legis. Cameron Alden (R-Islip) argued against the extension calling it a "huge mistake" because the firm was "woefully behind on almost every term" of their contract. Parks officials said the company had problems, but had caught up on its payments. The extension was approved 14-3 with one abstention.

Earlier that year, then State Comptroller Carl McCall assailed Global's performance at Bethpage. McCall said the firm under-reported its receipts by $124,000, was slow to pay fees and that the state paid for some of the $1.75 million in improvements that Global was supposed to make.

State parks officials dismissed the audit as politically motivated because McCall was running for governor against GOP incumbent George Pataki.

Trabich first took over the Bergen Point course in 1992 after making the winning proposal to run the course, the pro shop, driving range and restaurant under a 10-year agreement with two five-year options for renewal. The term of the first extension is up at the end of this year.

Trabich made the public-private partnership deal at a time when the county was suffering severe fiscal problems and had no money to invest in its golf courses.

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Under the contract, Trabich was required to invest $2.5 million to fix up the the low-lying Bergen Point course, which was in poor condition from frequent flooding, and littered with feces from wild geese. The number of rounds played had sunk to 32,000 a year, far below other county courses. Global's improvements increased play on the course to 50,000 rounds in 1994, parks officials say.

Staff writer Sandra Peddie contributed to this story

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