The controversial owner of several businesses at Westchester County Airport is being accused of siphoning more than $860,000 from a chain of Connecticut gas stations, just two days after a judge stripped him of control of the companies and put his estranged business partner in charge.
Sammy Eljamal, 38, of Purchase could face a contempt
charge for violating the Westchester County judge’s order, the latest
development in a series of legal battles over control of gas stations in
New York and Connecticut between Eljamal and two investors, Leon
Silverman of Purchase and James Weil of Scarsdale.
intention to demonstrate to the court that he has in fact taken money
from the businesses to cover his own personal expenses,” said attorney
Marc Oxman, who represents Silverman. “I believe that there are a number
of agencies that are monitoring Mr. Eljamal’s activities, that they
will be well aware of this.”
In an email exchange with The
Journal News, Eljamal called the claims “a plot to steal a company that I
brought to us for acquisition ... (Silverman) wouldn’t have had access
to such deals (without) me or my experience.”
His lawyer, Bruno
Gioffre, conceded that his client used the money from the Connecticut
companies earlier this month to pay off delinquent personal federal
“He took money from the company to pay off some of his taxes, which people do all the time,” Gioffre said.
But he noted that Eljamal owns 95 percent of those businesses.
has been, from the outset, their attempt to squeeze him out of these
companies for their own personal benefit, to limit his ownership,”
Gioffre said. “The faster they squeeze him out and push him out, it
limits his ownership because his ownership in some of these companies
increases the longer he’s in.”
The disputes stem from two
partnerships Eljamal formed in 2009: an agreement with Silverman to take
over a Connecticut chain of stations and a separate deal with Silverman
and Weil to purchase 88 Shell stations in Westchester, New York City
and on Long Island.
Eljamal, an Ardsley native, took over his
first gas station at 18 and has built a vast business empire across the
region; he and his family run scores of gas stations, convenience stores
and car washes.
Last year, one of his companies, Airport Mart,
beat out four competitors for the county contract to take over the
5,000-square-foot restaurant and bar space at Westchester County
airport. The company also operates the airport’s newsstand, Dunkin’
Donuts and the departure lounge concession stand.
A Journal News
investigation last month revealed that Eljamal and his father, Musa, who
is listed in documents as vice president of Airport Mart, have a
history of legal and business troubles. In 2002, they were indicted on
felony fraud charges related to the state’s worker compensation fund.
Sammy Eljamal was not convicted. Musa Eljamal pleaded guilty, but
avoided a prison sentence after the pair apparently repaid the fund.
with Sammy Eljamal’s partnerships with Silverman and Weil began to fall
apart within two years. In 2011, Silverman sued Eljamal to gain control
of the Connecticut stations, while Eljamal sued Silverman and Weil,
claiming the investors reneged on their promise to let him manage the
New York stations. Last year, Eljamal also sued Weil for slander and
Eljamal claimed his two partners broke the agreement by
pushing to remove him as manager of the New York stations, although he
said he was the one who brought them in on the deal in the first place.
Eljamal also noted that he was the sole guarantor of a $33 million bank
loan used to purchase those businesses.
In the Connecticut
lawsuit, Silverman claimed that Eljamal violated the agreements by
improperly using company funds, including to pay himself more than
$340,000 in unauthorized salary in 2009 and 2010, buy about $40,000
worth of New York Yankees tickets and to pay off his father’s $10,700
American Express credit card bill.
Eljamal’s share of the revenue
from the New York stations became the subject of another 2012 case,
with the money placed in escrow until a series of liens and claims on
the funds is decided, including claims by federal and state tax
authorities. That case will move to federal court next month at the
request of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, an option the office has when
federal matters like unpaid income taxes are involved.
Eljamal’s attorney, maintained that all of the funds that Eljamal
withdrew from the Connecticut partnership “were business related” and
that “anything that was spent was for the good of the company.”
said Eljamal built up the companies using his knowledge of the fuel
business, and at one point invested $1.5 million of his own money to
keep several of the stations afloat. He said Eljamal’s tax woes — in
which he defaulted on hundreds of thousands of dollars in state and
federal income taxes — were the result of payments Silverman and Weil
claimed they made to Eljamal but never did, Gioffre said.
guys, Silverman and Weil, my understanding is they were the money guys
that came in on this deal,” Gioffre said. “Sammy’s the operator. Sammy’s
the one that built up the business. Sammy’s the one that networks with
other companies trying to raise money and things like that for the
businesses. So any expenditures were pursuant to those endeavors, for
him to build up these companies and build up these businesses and build
up these relationships. I think that they were all authorized.”
in court papers, Silverman said Eljamal failed to invest a contracted
$2.7 million in the Connecticut enterprise and instead transferred
$863,308 from a company bank account to his New York company to pay off
his delinquent income taxes. The transfers came on July 11, two days
after Westchester County Judge Joan Lefkowitz named Silverman manager of
the Connecticut stations.
Silverman’s lawyers have asked
Lefkowitz to hold Eljamal in contempt of court, claiming that the
transfers were in direct violation of the judge’s order naming Silverman
manager of the Connecticut businesses.
“The judge entered an
order on July 9 making Leon the manager of the company,” said Lois
Rosen, an attorney representing Silverman. “At that moment Mr. Eljamal
no longer had the authority to do anything with respect to the bank
account, to take 10 cents let alone eight hundred and sixty-some-odd
thousand dollars. That action was beyond any authority that he had given
the court’s order.”
Eljamal’s attorneys are due to submit a
written reply to Lefkowitz next week. Gioffre said there were no grounds
for his client to be held in contempt.
“There was nothing
explicit in the judge’s order as to who can make such distributions and
how,” he said. Secondly, he said, “in order to be in contempt for
violating an order, you have to have been served or at least know the
specific contents of the order. There’s a difference between knowing
that an order has come down and knowing the contents of the order. And
that’s what they need to establish. They have not been able to establish
In his emails to The Journal News, Eljamal said he was
“not too thrilled about the gasoline business any more. I am working
with more alternative fuel companies today than ever before,” he said,
adding that “I’m very busy currently as I am working on the acquisition
of a MLB baseball team.” He did not say which one.