Oyster Bay was the “victim” of a loan guarantee scheme involving indicted concessionaire Harendra Singh, the town’s outside legal counsel said in a court filing Tuesday.
Lenders to Singh, subsidiaries of the Connecticut-based Phoenix Companies, sued Oyster Bay in New York State and federal courts in July alleging breach of contract and fraud after the restaurateur’s companies defaulted and the town did not honor loan guarantees on $16.1 million of debt.
The town disputes that the guarantees are valid or enforceable.
“If there is any victim in this case, it is the town,” the town’s outside legal counsel, Jonathan Pickhardt of Manhattan-based Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP wrote in the town’s response to one of the suits. “Should this action proceed, town officials would testify that they did not learn of the purported guarantee’s existence until well after its supposed execution.”
Pickhardt, in an interview, said the town was “the victim of Mr. Singh.”
Singh’s criminal defense attorney, Anthony La Pinta of Hauppauge, declined to comment.
Singh was charged in federal court on Sept. 9, 2015, with 13 felony counts, including bribing an Oyster Bay official to obtain loan guarantees for capital improvements at the town-owned Woodlands catering hall and food concessions at Tobay Beach. He has pleaded not guilty. Newsday has reported that the town official has been identified by sources as former deputy town attorney Frederick Mei.
Pickhardt said in his filing that Phoenix failed to do its proper due diligence when lending Singh’s companies millions of dollars.
A Phoenix spokeswoman declined to comment Wednesday.
Phoenix has said in court filings that it relied on statements and opinions about the loans from Mei and Uniondale-based law firm Harris Beach PLLC.
However, the town said in its court filing that Phoenix had not spoken with any town officials other than Mei and that the town board didn’t authorize hiring Harris Beach for town work.
Harris Beach, in a court filing in a separate but related case, has disputed the town’s position.
“The evidence will demonstrate that [the Town of Oyster Bay] authorized and consented to Harris Beach’s retention as its counsel, and further, that [the Town of Oyster Bay] ratified the Golf Course and Beach Loan Transactions,” Harris Beach’s filing said.