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Indicted concessionaire owes Oyster Bay nearly $300,000

Harendra Singh walks out of federal court in

Harendra Singh walks out of federal court in Central Islip after being released on bail on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016. Photo Credit: James Carbone

Companies started by former concessionaire Harendra Singh still owe Oyster Bay at least $292,333, according to town documents and the municipality’s outside legal counsel.

Oyster Bay plans to try to collect that money, Chief Deputy Town Attorney Frank Scalera said.

“We will be pursuing a lawsuit or collection for any outstanding invoices,” Scalera said, adding that legal documents are “ready to go.”

“I don’t know why a lawsuit wasn’t brought sooner,” he said.

The town had concessions agreements with three of Singh’s companies: S.R.B. Convention & Catering Corp. at the catering hall at the Woodlands golf course in Woodbury; SRB Concession Inc. at Tobay Beach; and HVS Tappan Beach Inc. at Tappen Beach. Oyster Bay officials last year terminated those concession agreements after months of nonpayment.

Oyster Bay is seeking to collect on that debt as it faces what the state comptroller’s office has called “severe fiscal stress.”

Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino faces several challenges, including credit ratings at or just above junk status, multimillion-dollar accumulated debt, a 2017 budget that includes an 11.5 percent tax levy increase to help restore the town’s financial footing, and an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Saladino was appointed last month to replace John Venditto, who resigned after he and Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano were indicted on federal corruption charges. Both have pleaded not guilty.

In trying to recoup the overdue concession payments, the town will join a list of creditors with millions of dollars in claims against Singh and his companies.

Singh was indicted in September 2015 on federal charges that include bribing a former Oyster Bay attorney to obtain loan guarantees from the town. Singh has pleaded not guilty and was released on a $5 million bond.

The records show that the companies owe $62,137 for the licensing fee and $116,034 for utilities at the Woodlands; $54,708 for the licensing fee at Tobay Beach; $56,562 for the licensing fee at Tappen Beach; and $2,890 for the licensing fee at the Tobay Beach mini-golf course.

Town records show that the companies had a history of not making payments, missing at least 139 payments from January 2009 through November 2016.

The records do not indicate that Oyster Bay charged the companies 5 percent late fees that added up to more than $26,000 on missed rental payments from 2009 through November 2016. The concession agreements required late fees be applied to payments received after the 20th of the month.

A group of investors led by New Hyde Park businessman Ravinder Chopra took partial ownership of the Singh companies that ran the Woodlands and Tobay Beach. In the three months before Singh’s arrest, as news of his financial problems became public, the companies tried to catch up — making payments totaling $470,626, town records show.

Attorneys for Singh and his wife, Ruby, who is listed in state records as chief executive of the companies, did not respond to requests for comment. Neither did Chopra’s lawyer.

Newsday sued Oyster Bay in February 2016 to obtain the Singh companies’ payment records. A New York State Supreme Court justice ordered the town to release the records and it began providing them on Jan. 4, the final day Venditto was in office.

Oyster Bay has released records from 2009 through November 2016. Outside legal counsel, Jonathan Pickhardt of Manhattan-based Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, gave outstanding balances on all accounts that matched those in the records except for that of the licensing fee at Tobay Beach, which he said was about $15,000 greater.

Under the agreement with Oyster Bay, Singh’s companies were to pay an annual licensing fee — effectively rent — in monthly installments to operate the facilities. At the Woodlands, Singh’s company was responsible for utilities.

The missed payments added up. In 2014, the average total monthly charge to the companies was $23,700 while the average monthly balance was $242,153. The records also show that an 18-month payment plan to pay $116,451 in utilities owed at the Woodlands, which the board approved in 2011, took 39 months to complete. From July 2013 through July 2015, Singh’s company missed 21 out of 25 payments that were due at Tappen Beach.

Scalera said the town comptroller’s office tracks payments and informs the town attorney’s office when collection efforts are required, typically after two months of missed payments. That responsibility currently belongs to Deputy Comptroller Christine Wiss, who joined the department in 2014.

Scalera, during the interview, said he instructed Wiss to review the town’s records to see if any missed payments had been flagged.

Wiss had no comment on the lack of payments.

Previously, the oversight was the responsibility of former Comptroller Robert McEvoy, who retired last year, Scalera said. He is currently chairman of the Oyster Bay Water District.

McEvoy said Thursday that he learned of the missed payments in 2015. He said an accountant in the comptroller’s office had been aware of the missed payments.

“She really didn’t bring it to my attention,” McEvoy said. “She said that she notified the town attorney’s office.”

McEvoy said he did not discuss the issue with Venditto or former Town Attorney Leonard Genova, who resigned last month.

In June 2015, Venditto said at a town board meeting that Singh was a good tenant.

“He’s always paid the rent on time,” Venditto said.

Venditto on Wednesday declined to discuss the missed payments, saying after an appearance in U.S. District Court in Central Islip, “I’m going to let the new administration handle it.”

Missed payments by Singh-founded companies

2009 7

2010 7

2011 9

2012 10

2013 21

2014 27

2015 30

2016 28

Source: Town of Oyster Bay payment records

Outstanding balances of Singh-founded companies, from December 2009 through 2015. Balances in 2016 are for month of November.

2009 $107,550

2010 $177,368

2011 $ 155,587

2012 $154,137

2013 $139,222

2014 $330,409

2015 $162,171

2016 $292,333

Source: Town of Oyster Bay payment records.

Note: Records from 2009 through 2012 are for S.R.B. Convention & Catering Corp. and SRB Concession Inc. In 2013, HVS Tappan Beach Inc. was added.

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