A Syosset-based restaurateur has been arrested for allegedly bribing a Town of Oyster Bay official, inflating the amount of Sandy aid one of his properties qualified for, and perpetrating tax fraud among other charges, federal officials said.
Harendra Singh was indicted on counts of honest services wire fraud, wire fraud conspiracy, federal program bribery, disaster relief fraud, conspiring to defraud the United States, impeding the Internal Revenue Service, tampering with evidence and obstruction of justice.
“Singh ran his businesses through fraud and deceit, using bribes and kickbacks to tilt the playing field in the Town of Oyster Bay,” said Kelly Currie, acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “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.”
Prosecutors said the 56-year-old man, who operates restaurants primarily in Nassau County and one at the Town of Oyster Bay’s Tobay Beach, paid bribes and kickbacks to an unidentified Oyster Bay town official, who was listed in court documents as a co-conspirator, in exchange for the town’s guaranteeing two private loans to his company totaling $20 million, which would leave taxpayers on the hook if he defaulted.
Singh allegedly gave the officials 10 checks for $5,000 made out to cash—half after the first loan for $7.8 million was closed in 2011, the rest after a second loan for $12.2 million was closed the following year, authorities said. Singh also allegedly paid for the official and a relative to fly to Asia, hotel and transportation expenses included, plus he made monthly payments for the official’s leased BMW, according to investigators.
The Internal Revenue Service alleged that Singh additionally under-reported his annual revenue and the wages he paid his workers by a total of $17 million, effectively hiding how much he owed in taxes in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2014, prosecutors said.
Singh also fraudulently obtained $950,000 in disaster relief funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency between 2012 and this year by inflating the amount of damage incurred to The Water’s Edge, a restaurant he owns in New York City, authorities said.
Lastly, when investigators executed a search warrant last year, Singh allegedly told FBI agents that he didn’t have a key to a safe that contained $175,000 in diverted Tobay revenue, which he later asked others to hold for him, prosecutors said.
If convicted, Singh faces up to 30 years in prison. He will be arraigned Wednesday before U.S. Judge A. Kathleen Tomlinson at Central Islip federal court.