Two Nassau County-based contractors are among nine who have been indicted on charges they bribed New York City Housing Authority employees in exchange for job contracts, prosecutors announced Monday.
Authorities said the contractors paid bribes to NYCHA employees or undercover investigators which totaled about $20,000 in cash, two $500 gift cards and four bottles of Johnnie Walker Scotch Whiskey in exchange for jobs such as installation of tub enclosures, a chain-link fence, repairing windows and tile work between December 2018 and May, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office and the New York City Department of Investigation said in a statement.
The contractors are accused of offering bribes for "micro purchase" contracts which, according to the district attorney’s office, NYCHA implements for small construction projects and repairs involving contracts up to $10,000 and do not require multiple bids. The superintendent or assistant superintendent of a NYCHA housing development has the discretion to choose a vendor and ask for an estimate, the district attorney’s office said.
Among those indicted were Lakhwinder Kumar, 47, and Kumar Construction Corp., of South Ozone Park, Queens. According to prosecutors, Kumar in November 2018 offered money to an assistant superintendent at a Brooklyn NYCHA development after telling the assistant superintendent he appreciated the jobs that he received. In turn, the assistant superintendent reported the incident to the City Department of Investigation and they equipped the employee with audio and video recording devices.
Kumar was captured on a recording handing the assistant superintendent $450 in exchange for a "micro purchase" contract, prosecutors said. Kumar faces three counts of third-degree bribery, according to court records.
In addition to Kumar, the following all face at least one count of third-degree bribery, while others face additional charges: Davinder Singh, 45, Nishan Singh, 56, Yuvi Development Inc., and NB Builders, of Hicksville; Jaswant Banga Singh, 57, and Khushi Construction Inc., of New Hyde Park; Charanjit Singh, 58, Satbir Singh, 71, and Fine Touch Construction, of Floral Park, Queens; Surinder Singh, 59, Guriqbal Singh, 28, A. Peter Luger Construction, PKG Contracting Corp. and Heera and G. Builders, of South Richmond Hill, Queens; Bakhshish Chand, 68, and Amar Contracting, of Richmond Hill, Queens.
They were all arraigned before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun and released without bail Monday, prosecutors said.
"These defendants allegedly tried to seek favors from NYCHA superintendents by offering them bribes, corrupting a process meant to ensure contracts are fairly awarded. I commend the employees who came forward to report the bribe offers, kicking off this investigation, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said in a statement.
Christopher R. Toppo of Paramus, New Jersey, who is representing Lakhwinder Kumar, said his client "looks forward to his vindication in court."
In July 2019, undercover investigators from the DOI posed as assistant superintendents at the Red Hook Houses West in Brooklyn and Lafayette Gardens in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, prosecutors said. Investigators captured in recordings contractors Charanjit Singh and Satbir Singh, who are brothers, and Guriqbal Singh, discussing jobs at the developments and handing cash, ranging from $500 to $1,000 to the undercovers, prosecutors said.
Scott Druker, of Garden City, representing Surinder Singh and Guriqbal Singh, said "Far from being the beneficiaries of a bribery scheme, they are victims of extortion."
Igor Litvak of Brooklyn, who is representing Jaswant Banga Singh and Bakhshish Chand, said in a statement "Mr. Chand and Singh were entrapped by the government, and both intend to contest the charges."
Attorneys for remaining contractors could not be immediately reached for comment.