Former Tougher Industries owner indicted on federal charges

A federal grand jury has indicted the former owner of Tougher Industries on charges of embezzlement,
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A federal grand jury has indicted the former owner of Tougher Industries on charges of embezzlement, tax evasion and making false statements to obtain a $6.1 million loan.

Five months after law enforcement officials arrested Steven Shaw on criminal charges stemming from a Berkshire Bank loan he sought for Tougher, the grand jury handed down a seven-count indictment last week.

The indictment accuses Shaw, of Lake George, of embezzling $31,200 from the Capital District Physicians’ Health Plan health care benefit program for Tougher between August and October of 2006. From 2004 to 2006, he also allegedly attempted to evade paying income tax by failing to file income tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service for each of those years.

The grand jury also accused Shaw of overstating his assets and net worth and falsifying personal financial statements, a personal biography, tax returns and other supporting documents to support a Tougher Industries application for a loan insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Before seeking a bankruptcy court’s protection less than two years ago, Tougher Industries was once one of the Northeast’s largest heating, ventilation and air conditioning companies.

Calls seeking comment from Shaw attorney Will Dreyer and Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Pericak were not immediately returned.

When Shaw was arrested in September, a federal attorney said he faced at least a $1 million fine and up to 30 years in prison.

Shaw’s legal problems started around November 2006, when Tougher Industries filed for Chapter 11 reorganization. After the HVAC company that once employed 300 nearly collapsed in late 2006, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Littlefield put a trustee in charge of its reorganization.

The Chapter 11 trustee, Lee Woodard, has filed several civil complaints against Shaw, his longtime companion and his associates. Woodard alleged they bilked Tougher Industries out of thousands of dollars.

In a separate civil suit, a U.S. District Court judge in January ordered Shaw to pay $100,000 plus interest to the three business partners from whom he bought Tougher Industries in 2005.

In November, Tougher Mechanical Enterprises, an affiliate of J Nortbert Properties in Massachusetts, received Littlefield’s approval to buy the Albany HVAC company for $650,000.

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