Taken to the Cleaners

Political ties won big government loans, but a Bronx plant still goes belly up

The bottom started to fall out two years ago. Aguiar's parent corporation that owned the chain of stores, Kleener King Satellites Inc., filed for bankruptcy. A year later, when creditors sought to compel him to make good on his debts, he filed personal bankruptcy. On court records he claims a monthly income of $2,000.

Among those left holding the bag when the bottom fell out was Kirk Ortega, whose Ortega General Contracting Ltd. built the plant and who is suing both Aguiar's firm and the Port Authority for $500,000 he says he is still owed. Ortega said that as the $2 million project was nearing completion, Aguiar stopped paying him, forcing him to dig into his own pocket to pay subcontractors. Later, according to Ortega's lawsuit, he learned that Aguiar had continued filing requisitions to the Port Authority, using Ortega's name. Aguiar has denied it, and his attorney, Murray Richman, said that those allegations are not part of the charges against his client.

The fallout at Kleener King isn't a topic that its former enthusiastic backers are eager to discuss. A Port Authority spokesperson declined comment, saying the matter was under litigation. Blair Duncan, an attorney for the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, said the organization is seeking to attach Aguiar's assets in an effort to recoup its loss. The Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation issued a statement acknowledging that the loan was in default.

"Sometimes these things do flop," said Ferrer last week. As borough president, he said that he had authorized legal action to collect the loan when he learned Aguiar was behind in payments. "Obviously no one thought this was going to fail," said Ferrer.

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