A Bethpage-based restaurateur faces a 13-count indictment in federal court after officials charged him with a litany of schemes, including allegedly paying bribes and kickbacks to a Town of Oyster Bay employee in exchange for guaranteeing loans to operate within the town.
Harendra Singh, 56, of Syosset, who is also accused of submitting false documents to FEMA to obtain more than $900,000 in disaster relief funds and underreporting $17 million of his sales and wages to the IRS, was indicted by acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Kelly T. Currie on Sept. 8.
The restaurateur, who runs the Bethpage-based Singh Hospitality Group and has properties in Queens and Long Island, including H.R. Singletons in Bethpage, is charged 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 U.S., one count of impeding the IRS, one count of tampering with evidence, and one count of obstruction of justice.
“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,” said 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.”
According to the indictment, in the scheme involving the Town of Oyster Bay Singh allegedly paud bribes and kickbacks to a town employee in exchange for guaranteeing loans totaling $20 million that two of Singh’s businesses received from a private corporate financing company. The indictment states that if Singh were to default on the loans, the town would be responsible for repaying the lender.
The first loan, the indictment reads, closed in November 2011 and totaled $7,843,138. Approximately one week after the loan closed, Singh gave the town employee five of $5,000 each. The second loan, closed in June 2012, was for $12,273,748. Singh allegedly gave the town employee five additional checks, each in the amount of $5,000. The indictment also alleges Singh paid for the town employee and a relative’s trip to Asia, including all transportation and hotel expenses.
The Town of Oyster Bay did not return requests for comment.
In Singh’s second scheme, the indictment alleges the restaurateur failed to report more than $17 million to the IRS between 2009 and 2014. By under-reporting employee hours and even concealing the existence of some employees, the indictment states, Singh caused his payroll processing companies to under report the employee wages and fail to withhold the proper amount of federal payroll taxes required by law.
In Singh’s alleged FEMA fraud, the indictment states that between October 2012 and January 2015, Singh fraudulently obtained federal disaster relief funds by preparing and filing false documents and invoices with FEMA. The documents claimed that one of Singh’s restaurants, The Water’s Edge in Long Island City, Queens, suffered loses following Superstorm Sandy. Singh allegedly inflated the amount of losses, often doubling or tripling the actual amount. As a result, the indictment states that Singh received more than $900,000 in relief funds.
The indictment also states that when federal agents conducted a search warrant of Singh’s offices last year, they questioned him about a locked safe. Singh allegedly told that though he did not have a key for the safe, it only contained guns for which he had permits. The indictment says the safe actually contained $175,000 in cash from a town beach concession stand operated by Singh.
If convicted, Singh faces up to 20 years in prison for each honest services wire fraud charge and up to 10 years for the federal program bribery charge, both in connection with the town scheme. Singh further faces up to 30 years for the disaster relief fraud charge and up to five years for conspiring to defraud the U.S. 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 U.S. 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 IRS.