UPDATE: The suit detailed in this story was dismissed on April 19, 2013 in New York State Supreme Court Queens County.
A would-be real estate developer stands accused of convincing the owners of a Long Island City taxi lot to invest millions in a development that was not built, instead allegedly spending the funds on his personal expenses. The developer, Brent Carrier, was previously the president of Vernon Realty, a Long Island City-based development company, according to the site for Carrier’s current business, Laguna Beach-Calif.-based Laguna Pacific Development.
According to a complaint filed in July in New York State Supreme Court in Queens County, Carrier first approached Richard Wissak and Jerry Nazari, who own a garage down the street from the land they hoped to develop, in 2011, saying he had a tip on “the deal of the century.”
Carrier pursued the pair of prospective investors, saying he would use their capital to redevelop the site, the lawsuit claims. Carrier allegedly said the group could buy the lot, at 45-40 Vernon Boulevard, at a steep discount, as the widow who owned the site wanted to be done with it.
Carrier claimed to have plans and relationships already in place to facilitate building a facility for the City University of New York on the site, the complaint says. He told the pair he had considerable experience dealing with sites like this one, a former paint factory in need of environmental remediation, the lawsuit alleges.
The website for Laguna Pacific states that Carrier’s “largest project [while] at Vernon Realty was the River East development in Long Island City, which Vernon Realty purchased for $24 million in 2004 and was placed under contract to sell for $183 million in 2006.”
A “Vernon Realty Holdings” bought the parcel at 44-02 Vernon Boulevard — where the River East condominiums were once slated to rise, according to published reports — for $26.1 million in 2003, city records show. Subsequent transfers of the property, the last of which was in 2009, show trades for $0 to an identically named limited liability company.
Department of Buildings records show no permits, issued or in process, for construction at the address.
Carrier has admitted to “co-mingling” funds the trio placed in a New York State-based limited liability company called Vernon Development Associates for purposes of developing the property, according to the complaint. He also admitted to using funds for “personal” purposes, including to pay his own American Express bill, and has failed to report any progress on the project, the suit alleges.
All $4.25 million that was invested in the project is gone from the account, according to the complaint, much of it to acquire the 33,000-square foot property, for $3.3 million, and more than $700,000 that Carrier allegedly used for personal expenses or transferred to other accounts.
The suit accuses Carrier of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and fraud and seeks unspecified damages.
Carrier did not immediately return calls for comment. Attorneys for the plaintiffs declined to comment.