Long Island Restaurateur Accused of $1 Million Sandy Fraud, Bribing Town Worker for Loans

A Long Island restaurateur has been accused in a 13-count indictment of paying bribes and kickbacks to a Town of Oyster Bay employee in exchange for guaranteeing loans to operate food concessions within the town.

Harendra Singh, who also allegedly fraudulently obtained federal disaster relief fund and underreporting nearly $17 million of his sales and wages to the IRS, was arrested Tuesday and is expected to be arraigned later in the day.

Singh runs the Bethpage-based Singh Hospitality Group, which has been operating since 1990 and has facilities in Queens and on Long Island. It's properties include H.R. Singleton's in Bethpage, Poco Loco in Roslyn, The Woodlands at the Greens in Woodbury and Melville and Water's Edge Restaurant in Queens, among other establishments.

Singh was awarded agreements with the Town of Oyster Bay, including concession contracts to operate food stands in the town. According to the indictment, he allegedly paid bribes and kickbacks to a town employee in exchange for guaranteeing two loans totaling about $20 million that two of Singh's businesses received from a private corporate financing company. Given the nature of the agreement, if Singh's businesses were to default on the loans, the town -- or the taxpayers -- would be responsible for repaying the lender.

Singh allegedly gave the town employee five checks, each in the amount of $5,000, about a week after each of the loans closed, which were in November 2011 and June 12. Singh also allegedly paid for the town employee and a relative to travel to Asia a few weeks after the second loan closed, covering all transportation and hotel expenses as well as other costs.

He sought another loan in late 2012 and 2013 of $14 million that ultimately didn't go through, but the indictment alleges Singh made monthly cash payments to the town employee to lease a BMW as a form of kickback.

In a separate scheme, Singh allegedly failed to report more than $17 million to the IRS between 2009 and 2014 to lower the federal taxes he and his business owed and paid. 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, according to the indictment.

In a third scheme, Singh allegedly obtained federal disaster relief funds by preparing and filing false documents and invoices with FEMA that claimed his restaurant The Water's Edge, which is in Long Island City, suffered losses following Sandy. The invoices inflated the amount of losses, often by double or triple the actual amount, according to the indictment.

Singh also allegedly had fraudulent receipts from vendors submitted that inflated the value of the contents of the building that housed the restaurant. Ultimately, Singh fraudulently received about $950,000 in disaster relief funds from FEMA, prosecutors charge.

When federal agents conducted a search warrant of his offices in August 2014 and questioned Singh about a locked safe on the premises, he told them he didn't have a key and that the safe contained guns for which he had permits, according to the indictment. The indictment says the safe actually had $175,000 in cash from a town beach concession stand operated by one of his facilities.

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,” the indictment alleges. A few days later, Singh instructed those individuals to return the money to his wife, according to officials.

Singh 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 United States, one count of impeding the IRS, one count of tampering with evidence and one count of obstruction of justice.

His lawyer didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Town of Oyster Bay declined to comment on Singh's arrest.

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