CLARK, NJ – A fraudulent attempt to convert a private pool club and banquet hall into housing has been tied to embattled former professional baseball player Lenny Dykstra, court records show.
Barbara Schwartz, an attorney for Garry Ruane, owner of the Gran Centurions Banquet Hall, said her client has been ensnared in the scheme in which Linden-based real estate broker Thomas Borowski and his cohorts took control of the nonprofit Gran Centurions foundation in an illicit effort to convert its pool club and banquet hall into townhomes.
“That privilege of the civic organization has been taken away, and it was done so in violation of the law and under the auspices of a judge, who had been assigned to supervise this case,” said Schwartz, who is with the Warren-based firm of Paul Swanicke.
Borowski, of Linden, claims in a certification with the court that Dykstra, the former baseball star, coerced him and his partners – Melissa Eisen, and Samuel Borowski – both of Clark, into the Union County Capital LLC’s alleged takeover to Gran Centurions and its conversion into a for-profit corporation. The pool club itself has since closed.
The alleged fraud is detailed in a certification filed in state Superior Court in Elizabeth in which Borowski says he took out loans against three properties, including the one at 440 Madison Hill Road in Clark, on which the banquet hall and pool are located.
Borowski claims that Allstate Lending Group Inc., represented by Michael Scannell, charged thousands of dollars of interest on the loans before funding the mortgage.
“These transactions become overwhelming when Allstate delayed funding the loans for months but insisted on calculating the prepaid interest from the date of closing,” Borowski says in the court filing.
Borowski claims his failed attempt, as the then head of Gran Centurions to sell the property to a real estate developer, Shabsels Real Estate Inc., for $4.25 million prompted Dykstra’s interest in the land as a developable property.
“The $4.25 million Shabsels contract alerted Allstate/Scannell to the value of the Gran Centurions property, and I am convinced motivated Scannell to use Lenny Dykstra to attempt to coerce me into making a deal with Scannell where Scannell would personally make a seven-figure profit,” Borowski writes.
A phone number listed for Dykstra’s home in Linden appeared to have been disconnected on Friday, and the former baseball player did not return a message sent via Twitter.
According to Borowski, Dykstra told him to begin the process of getting the property zoned for 64 townhouses and then Dykstra, through a series of threats, pushed him into signing a contract for the deal.
These threats including an assault in which Borowski claims he was knocked unconscious from behind, then later received a phone call warning him to follow through with the deal. – “The caller then said he hoped my headache was better and then hung up,” Borowski writes.
How did the Gran Centurions, a nonprofit, come to be an alleged for-profit corporation?
Borowski, by way of Union County Capital, illicitly purchased the outstanding $1,000 bonds of the nonprofit from the Grand Centurions membership for $33,269 each, documents filed in the case allege.
The bonds, however, are non-transferrable, according to the court filings, and Ruane never accepted payment from Borowski, Schwartz said. Ruane kept the $1,000 bond, leaving him the sole remaining member of the nonprofit, his attorneys say.
Schwartz said Borowski forced the foundation’s membership into accepting the payments for the bonds, telling them they had no other choice.
Borowski, who had no legitimate interest in Gran Centurions, however, took out a $1.65 mortgage against the entity, according to Schwartz and documents filed in the case. And Allstate is seeking to enforce that loan, she said.
“If you go and want to borrow money from the bank and you like your friend’s house and say ‘I want to take out a loan against a friend’s’ house, you can’t do that,” Schwartz said.
She said the alleged fraud was done with the approval of Clark Municipal Court Judge Antonio Inacio, through a false certification.
“Gran Centurions' nonprofit still exists and has never been liquidated, although certified to no longer existing by Judge Antonio Inacio Esq. while representing the Gran Centurions,” Schwartz said.
State records confirm Gran Centurions Scholarship Fund, established in 1976, indeed exists.
Messages left with Inacio’s private law office were not returned Friday, and he was not available at the municipal court, where, public records show, he earns $51,156 annually as a part-time judge.
Since the takeover of Gran Centurions, Union County Capital has sought to collect rent from the banquet hall, referred to in court records as Garry’s Catering, and attempted to evict Ruane from his business. Union County Capital claims in a September 2018 notice that Ruane owed $38,133, including rent, back-rent and other fees.
Attorneys for Ruane say, however, the rent was paid into an attorney trust account and that under Borowski and his associates’ leadership, Gran Centurions defaulted on its mortgage payments. Ruane’s attorneys further claim Borowski breached the lease by failing to repair the building’s roof, not plowing snow and failing to maintain the parking lot.
Arguments in the case continued this week at Superior Court in Elizabeth, where Schwartz sought to have the case transferred to the law division and have Judge Katherine Dupuis, who is overseeing the case in the court’s Chancery division, recuse herself. Typically, cases heard in the Chancery division are those where one party is seeking to have another do something other than pay money.
Due to the alleged fraud scheme, Schwartz said, she is asking the state Attorney General’s Office to intervene.
“A judge is required to control her case and police her court, and we’re alleging that has not happened here,” Schwartz said. “We do need the help of the Attorney General.”
Matt Kadosh is a Staff Writer for TAPinto Westfield. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh