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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

How did Oyster Bay loan guarantees get through?

Harendra Singh is led out of the FBI

Harendra Singh is led out of the FBI office in Melville early Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. The Long Island restaurateur was arrested Wednesday morning on charges of bribery of a public official, failing to pay millions of dollars in taxes and obstruction of justice, sources said. Credit: James Carbone

Federal prosecutors allege that a vendor with lucrative concession deals in Oyster Bay parks managed to bribe a deputy town official -- with money, vacations and a leased BMW -- to put town taxpayers on the hook should the vendor, Harendra Singh, default on his loans.

What was going on? And how could what prosecutors call "a scheme and artifice to defraud and deprive the citizens" of Oyster Bay have occurred under the nose of the town's elected officials for more than two years?

An answer to the second query wasn't forthcoming Wednesday as the town maintained silence in the wake of Singh's indictment on multiple charges, including bribery.

But some answers to the first can be gleaned from multiple documents released to Newsday by Oyster Bay under a Freedom of Information Law request last week.

In the indictment against Singh, federal prosecutors allege that a deputy town attorney -- identified by sources as Frederick Mei, who resigned last month -- worked to bind town taxpayers' fortunes firmly to those of Singh's. In return, the attorney accepted bribes and kickbacks, the indictment says.

Let's examine the trail of documents released by the town regarding the securing of Singh's loans. Some of the agreements later deemed to be "of suspicious origin" by an attorney hired by the town were never put into place.

June, 2010

Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto, acting on a resolution passed by the town board, signs off on a change to Singh's concession agreement.

The change is geared toward helping Singh secure financing for planned improvements to the town's golf course.

Under the amendment, the town agrees to pay Singh $2 million if it terminates the agreement before April 2025. Singh also gets the option to have the town pay that fee directly to a creditor, should Singh default on a loan.

Documents turned over by the town include a version of the agreement that specifies Madison National Bank as Singh's "designated financial entity," pushes the agreement's no-termination date to December, and raises the penalty to $3.4 million.

The document was one of those deemed to have been of suspicious origin, according to a letter to Newsday from Jonathon Pickhardt, an attorney hired by the town.

May, 2011

Documents dated May 8 and 9 -- notarized and bearing signatures of town officials and Singh -- change the terms of Singh's agreement again. One is supposed to provide "collateral security for a certain $3,400,000 loan." The amount matches the town's financial penalty for ending the agreement early.

The documents later were deemed to be of suspicious origin.

November, 2011

Oyster Bay guarantees the first of two loans for Singh's companies around Nov. 18, 2011, according to the federal indictment against Singh.

Documents released by the town refer to a promissory note, issued on Oct. 27, 2011, for $7,843,138.08. That was eight cents more than the amount of the loan Oyster Bay guaranteed for Singh's companies, according to the federal indictment.

If Singh defaults, Oyster Bay "has the right to fulfill the payment obligation in any manner it deems appropriate," one town document states. "And the parties acknowledge that it is [the town's] intention to fulfill its payment obligation hereunder by issuing one or more bonds."

June, 2012

The town agrees to guarantee a second loan for Singh, according to the federal indictment. Documents released by the town show that the loan amount was $12,273,748.80.

Wednesday, Pickhardt repeated the town's contention that both loans are invalid and unenforceable because they never went through the town's approval process.

Still, the loans got through, obligating taxpayers to back Singh's borrowing.

The question remains: How?

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