LONG ISLAND, NY (TIP): In what could be seen as a decisive action by FBI against Harendra Singh, a prominent Long Island restaurateur, FBI agents arrested him on multiple criminal charges at dawn Wednesday, September 9 morning at his Long Island home.
A 13-count indictment was unsealed September 9 afternoon 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.
Singh was arraigned before US Magistrate Judge Kathleen Tomlinson. He pleaded not guilty. The judge released Singh on $5 million bond secured by property and on conditions including that he wear an electronic monitor and be allowed to work at his restaurants only three hours a day, operating them from home the rest of the time.
The indictment charges that Singh paid bribes and kickbacks to a city employee in exchange for his assistance in obtaining guarantee of two loans totaling about US $20 million.
The indictment also alleges that Singh fraudulently under-reported to the Internal Revenue Service the true amount of money his 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, he allegedly failed to report about US $10 million in gross receipts. To facilitate this fraud, Singh employed an individual who, at his direction, did not record his entities’ cash sales as gross receipts in the books and records of those businesses.
In addition, from 2010 through 2014, Singh allegedly concealed over US $7 million of wages paid to employees. He 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.
The indictment also alleges that between October 2012 and January 2015, he fraudulently obtained disaster relief funds by preparing and filing false and fraudulent documents and invoices with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
These documents claimed that Singh’s entity ‘The Water’s Edge’, which operated a restaurant in Long Island City, suffered losses following Hurricane Sandy.
The invoices inflated the amount of losses, often by double or triple the actual amount.
Singh also 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 US $950,000 in disaster relief funds from FEMA.
Singh faces terms of imprisonment of up to 20 years for each services wire fraud charge and up to 10 years for the federal program bribery charge.
He 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.
The Indian Panorama in its August 20 edition had demanded, besides the ongoing investigation in to the allegations against Harendra Singh, a broader investigation in to the activities of a mafia operating in Nassau County, in collusion with town and county officials.
Comments from the Indian American Community on Harendra Singh
Sad and tragic – best describe one’s emotional reaction to the stunning and serious charges. Of course, there is constitutional presumption of innocence in addition to wishing your fellow human being well in times of trouble. As I’ve recently learned at a funeral of a pastor, his philosophy was: it’s better to be kind than right.
H, as Harendra Singh is known, was always a man on the go, working hard to succeed in his pursuit of the American dream; A man with an easy smile, easy to like and be friendly with. He’s got a great dad, doing charity work for the needy, and a supportive family.
I felt a sense of pride when I first learned years ago that the great Water’s Edge was bought over by an Indian-American, a Mr. H. I felt a similar joy in finally meeting H and discovering that he was a citizen actively engaged in democracy – irrespective of political party labels. How wonderful.
As a lawyer, I’m very disturbed by the allegations – as they don’t paint a picture of a man who has labored with honor to climb each rung of the difficult ladder of merit-based American Dream in his pursuit of happiness. EDNY, the home base of the fearless and history-making U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, is an Office to reckon with no less than Preet Bharara’s SDNY. Remember soccer’s FIFA prosecution. Added to that fabulous prosecutorial stardom, is FBI director Jim Comey – who was once Preet’s predecessor once removed, but earned his place in America’s Honor Roll when as Deputy Attorney General to AG John Ashcroft, he rebuked President Bush’s then-WH Counsel Alberto Gonzales’s attempt to do an end run around the Constitution while U.S. Attorney General Ashcroft lay sick in a hospital bed. So, whatever else, I’d be personally insulted if I hear anyone think a bad word, let alone utter it, against hardworking underpaid prosecutors and Special Agents who keep us safe and democracy free of feudalism.
A great way to redeem oneself is to first admit error, and then serve just penance. That’s civilization’s nectar. Only H and his lawyers and the capable prosecutors know what the Truth’s neighborhood is. If H is free of sin and this is a case of gross mistaken identity, he ought stand tall and duke it out. If on the other hand the truth approximates the charges, then redemption is only by owning up to one’s mistakes and misconduct and helping lessen the prosecutors load as they do their corruption-cancer surgery – such that safe and clean margins are achieved in society as in the Operating Room.
In the meantime, kindness is divine and we live in the greatest nation in human history -and we owe her real respect – for how we all act permits E Pluribus Unum to be a fact, despite the angry Trump Season.”
Attorney Ravi Batra
New York City
There is no doubt that the indictment and arrest of Mr. Harendra Singh is a personal tragedy for him and his family and we ought to respect the basic adage that a person is innocent until proven guilty.
However, the incident may also point to the long held suspicion in many quarters that for far too long, few people from our community may be involved in illegal or unethical activities in collusion with the county and town officials in Nassau County. The indictment of Mr. H. Singh may be only the tip of the iceberg.
There is a great opportunity for all of us to succeed and achieve the American dream through hard work and with ethical behavior that has become a hallmark of the majority of the Indian immigrants to this great nation. However, there are a few who have indulged in greed and engaged in corrupt practices that could bring disrepute to our community and potential estrangement from the ruling class whose help and guidance are still required to fulfill our genuine aspirations.
Therefore, it is imperative that the authorities investigate the matter thoroughly and root out the nexus of corruption and nepotism that has been highlighted through this indictment.
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