Fraud Allegations Latest Setback for New York Track

A group of Vernon Downs shareholders filed a lawsuit Nov. 20 seeking to gain control of the upstate New York Standardbred track from Las Vegas investor Shawn Scott.

The suit alleges Scott and his associates fraudulently gained control of the harness track east of Syracuse through a series of illegal stock and loan transactions, the Utica Observer-Dispatch reported. The suit says Scott and others paid themselves millions of dollars and put Vernon Downs $23 million in the red.

Scott and finance companies he controlled loaned Vernon Downs money at interest rates up to 25%, then converted the loans into stock shares to eventually give Scott 80% ownership of the track, the suit claims. That includes Scott's mother, Victoria Scott, who a week ago accumulated enough stock to make her the majority owner, the Observer-Dispatch reported.

The lawsuit was filed by stockholders Jeff Gural, Gary Greenberg and John Signorelli, a former Vernon Downs chief executive officer, in federal district court. The shareholders allege Vernon Downs management has flouted Securities and Exchange Commission laws.

Vernon Downs has applied for a state license to install video lottery terminals. Next month, the track will apply for a 2004 racing license. Last year, regulators shut the track briefly when it was without a license.

Earlier this year, Scott and partners touted the VLT operation and said Vernon Downs would be the first track in the state to operate the machines. The announced opening was November of this year; that is now out of the question.