NEW YORK – Indian American Harendra Singh, a campaign donor to Mayor Bill de Blasio, secretly pleaded guilty in federal court to bribery, admitting that he used his contributions to the mayor to try to gain money for the lease of his restaurant which was owned on city property, according to the New York Times.
Court documents state that the mayor himself took steps to benefit Singh in exchange for the contributions.
An unnamed senior aide to the mayor also arranged a meeting to pressure a city agency to offer more favorable terms to Singh.
During Singh’s plea hearing, which occurred on Oct. 17, 2016, he said that his donations were intended as part of a quid pro quo, according to a transcript of the hearing, reported the Times.
“I gave these donations to the elected official in exchange for efforts by that official and other city officials to obtain a lease renewal from the city agency for my restaurant on terms that were favorable to me,” he said.
According to the records, along with pleading guilty to conspiracy, bribery and honest services wire fraud, in connection with campaign contributions to de Blasio in October 2016, Singh also pleaded guilty to six counts stemming from bribery schemes involving local government officials in Long Island and the several businesses that he owned there.
An indictment states that in effort to renew a lease with the Department of Citywide Administrative Services for his Water’s Edge restaurant in Queens, in 2010, Singh started raising funds for de Blasio’s mayoral campaign, and ended up raising tens of thousands of dollars.
Singh was also one of the earliest donors who contributed a large amount when the mayor began his campaign in 2010 and with the help of his family members and other associates, was able to raise a total of about $33,000.
Singh also held a fundraiser for the mayor on Oct. 12, 2013 at his Water’s Edge restaurant.
But in December 2014, Singh needed help with renewing the lease for his restaurant so he sent an email to an aide to the mayor whom he named as “Official #2”, according to court documents.
According to court documents, on July 30, 2015, Emma Wolfe, one of de Blasio’s top aides, arranged a meeting in City Hall with Singh and Stacey Cumberbatch, the head of the administrative services department, to discuss his lease and the she tentatively agreed to settle terms with Singh that were more favorable to him than what was previously offered, they were about to finalize the deal when Singh was arrested for the Long Island corruption investigation.
According to the New York Times, Singh owed the city millions of dollars in back rent and charges for the rebuilding of a nearby pier and had been involved in a long-running dispute with the city over his lease.
The relationship between Singh and de Blasio had been a focus of investigations by the F.B.I. and the United States attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, who decided against charging the mayor, but harshly criticized him and his fund-raising practices, after an 18-month inquiry, according to the New York Times
The New York Times reported that last March, federal prosecutors who had investigated the mayor’s fundraising decided not to bring any criminal charges against him based on what they described as a high burden of proof and the challenge of proving corruption without “evidence of personal profit.”
The transcript of Singh’s guilty plea was unsealed on Tuesday in connection with the trial of one of the Long Island officials, Edward P. Mangano, for which Singh is expected to be an important witness for.