Long Island Businessman Harendra Singh Indicted on Bribery, Fraud, and Obstruction Charges
A 13—count indictment was unsealed this morning in federal court in Central Islip charging Harendra Singh, also known as “H. Singh,” with five counts of honest services wire fraud, one count of honest services wire fraud conspiracy, one count of federal program bribery, one count of disaster relief fraud, two counts of conspiring to defraud the United States, one count of impeding the Internal Revenue Service, one count of tampering with evidence, and one count of obstruction of justice.1 Singh was arrested this morning and will be arraigned later today before the Hon. A. Kathleen Tomlinson, United States Magistrate Judge, at the United States Courthouse, 100 Federal Plaza, Central Islip, NY.
The indictment was announced by Kelly T. Currie, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Diego Rodriguez, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), and Shantelle P. Kitchen, Special Agent- in-Charge, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, New York Field Office (IRS-CI).
“As alleged, Harendra Singh ran his businesses through fraud and deceit, using bribes and kickbacks to tilt the playing field in the Town of Oyster Bay. He accomplished this by lying to FEMA and the IRS in order to obtain hundreds of thousands of Hurricane Sandy disaster relief funds to which he was not entitled and evading taxes on millions of dollars of sales and wages,” stated Acting United States Attorney Currie. “The obligation to deal honestly is shared by everyone in our society, and we and our partners in the FBI and IRS-CI are unwavering in our commitment to root out corruption at all levels.”
“The charges alleged in today’s indictment describe an outpouring of greed. As alleged, Singh put local business owners at a significant disadvantage, siphoned funds from public money he was not entitled to, and sidestepped his responsibility to pay taxes on underreported income. Today’s arrest is proof of the FBI’s continued determination to work with our partners in rooting out those who engage in unlawful schemes for profit,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Rodriguez.
“IRS-Criminal Investigation, in its mission of ensuring that everyone pays their fair share of taxes, investigates business owners who willfully do not report all of their business receipts and who willfully fail to collect and pay over payroll taxes to the government, said Special Agent-in-Charge Kitchen. “Obviously, taxes are needed to keep the government running, so when people and businesses do not pay their fair share, they increase the burden on law abiding taxpayers. When business owners do not collect payroll taxes, they compound this burden and harm their own employees, potentially depriving them of future government benefits that are funded by these collections, like Social Security payments.”
The Town of Oyster Bay Loan Scheme
Singh owned and operated restaurants and food concessions located primarily in Nassau County (collectively, the Singh entities), and was awarded agreements with the Town of Oyster Bay (the Town), including concession agreements to operate various food concessions within the Town. The indictment charges that Singh paid bribes and kickbacks to a Town employee (identified in the indictment as co-conspirator #3) in exchange for the co-conspirator’s assistance in obtaining the Town’s guarantee of two loans totaling approximately $20 million that two of Singh’s businesses received from a private corporate financing company (identified in the indictment as the Lender). As a result, were Singh’s entities to default on the loans, the Town would be responsible for repaying the Lender the entire amount of the loan.
The first loan, which closed in November 2011, was for $7,843,138. Approximately one week after the loan closed, Singh gave co-conspirator #3 an envelope with five checks, each in the amount of $5,000; the five checks were made out to “cash.” The second loan, which closed in June 2012, was for $12,273,748. Approximately one week after closing, Singh gave co-conspirator #3 an envelope with five additional checks, each in the amount of $5,000; the five checks were each made out to “cash.” In addition, Singh paid for co-conspirator #3 and a relative to travel to Asia a few weeks after the second loan closed, including all transportation and hotel expenses.
The indictment alleges that in late 2012 and 2013, Singh sought an additional loan of approximately $12 million from the Lender in connection with improvements to be made to Singh’s concession facilities at two Town beaches. To assist Singh, co-conspirator #3 arranged for meetings between the Lender and Town officials. Although the loan was not ultimately extended, between September 2012 and February 2015, Singh made monthly cash payments to co-conspirator #3 for the lease of a BMW automobile.
The Tax Fraud Schemes
The indictment alleges that Singh fraudulently under-reported to the IRS the true amount of money certain of the Singh entities earned and the wages he paid his workers, thereby lowering significantly the federal taxes he and his businesses owed and paid. Specifically, for tax years 2009 and 2012, Singh allegedly failed to report approximately $10,000,000 in gross receipts for seven Singh entities. To facilitate this fraud, Singh employed an individual who, at Singh’s direction, did not record the seven Singh entities’ cash sales as gross receipts in the books and records of those businesses. Because the profits of those businesses flowed through to Singh as their owner, the failure to properly report the gross receipts of the businesses enabled Singh to under-report his own income on his personal income tax returns.
In addition, from 2010 through 2014, Singh allegedly concealed approximately $7,091,331 of wages paid to employees of the same Singh entities, plus an additional Singh entity, fraudulently depriving the federal government of payroll taxes. Singh accomplished this scheme by paying a significant portion of the wages paid to employees of these entities “off the books.” By under-reporting employee hours and even concealing the existence of some employees, Singh caused his payroll processing companies to underreport the employee wages and fail to withhold the proper amount of federal payroll taxes required by law.
The FEMA Fraud Scheme
The indictment also alleges that between October 2012 and January 2015, Singh fraudulently obtained federal disaster relief funds by preparing and filing false and fraudulent documents and invoices with FEMA. These documents claimed that the Singh entity, “The Water’s Edge,” which operated a restaurant in Long Island City, New York, suffered losses following Hurricane Sandy. The invoices inflated the amount of losses, often by double or triple the actual amount. Singh also submitted or caused to be submitted to FEMA fraudulent receipts from vendors that inflated the value of the contents of the building that housed the restaurant. As a result, Singh fraudulently received approximately $950,000 in disaster relief funds from FEMA.
Obstruction of Justice
Singh is charged with evidence tampering and obstruction of justice in connection with the execution of a search warrant at his offices by FBI Special Agents on August 5, 2014. When agents questioned Singh about the contents of a locked safe on the premises, he informed the agents that he did not have a key to the safe and that the safe contained guns, for which he had permits. In fact, the safe contained $175,000 in cash which were diverted cash receipts from a Town beach concession operated by one of the Singh entities. Following the execution of the search warrant, Singh removed the cash and instructed two others to each take a portion of the cash home for “safekeeping.” A few days later, Singh instructed those individuals to return the money to his wife.
If convicted, Singh faces terms of imprisonment of up to o 20 years for each honest services wire fraud charge and up to 10 years for the federal program bribery charge, both in connection with the Town loan scheme. If convicted of any of those charges, the government will seek to forfeit Singh’s properties that constitute or are derived from proceeds of those offenses, including two residences located in Nassau County. Singh further faces terms of imprisonment of up to 30 years for the disaster relief fraud charge and up to five years for conspiring to defraud the United States in connection with his submitted claims for disaster relief, up to 20 years for each of the obstruction charges, up to five years for the charge of conspiring to defraud the United States in connection with his scheme to under-report gross receipts and payroll taxes, and up to three years for the charge of obstructing and impeding the due administration of the Internal Revenue Laws.
Mr. Currie expressed his appreciation to the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, the Northern Criminal Enforcement Section of the Tax Division of the Department of Justice, and the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance for their assistance in and cooperation with the investigation.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Public Integrity Section and Long Island Criminal Division. Assistant United States Attorneys Catherine M. Mirabile, Raymond A. Tierney, and Lara Treinis Gatz are in charge of the prosecution. Assistant United States Attorney Madeline O’Connor of the Office’s Civil Division will be responsible for the forfeiture of assets.
Syosset, New York
1 The charges contained in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.