WOODBURY - A group of Long Island investors is under fire after sinking more than $500,000 into a horse hospital and equine center near Belmont Park.

One of the investors, Michael Iavarone, owns Big Brown, the thoroughbred racehorse that won the 2008 Kentucky Derby. In 2009, Iavarone's firm asked the Hempstead Industrial Development Agency for a hefty tax break to be used toward a new care center for the track's horses.

Local leaders voiced opposition to the deal, citing Iavarone had enough in his coffers to fund the project without financial assistance.

The development agency eventually voted to approve the plan, despite critics' claims that Iavarone received behind-the-scenes help. His firm ended up paying less than one-third of what it would have ordinarily owed in property taxes.

Yet after three years, the hospital closed its doors, leaving the Town of Hempstead without the jobs Iavarone promised.

Hempstead IDA chair Theodore Sasso denies the tax break was improper or overly generous. He also insists he had no idea the project was allegedly part of a Ponzi scheme to cheat investors.