Los Angeles: A 39-year-old Indian-American businessman has been charged here with paying a bribe to a city council member in Los Angeles to obtain support for a proposed fee increase for towing and vehicle storage.
Sukhbir Singh and his company H P Automotive and Tow have been charged in a two-count indictment that accuses Singh and his company of paying a bribe "to influence and reward" the city council member in relation to official action related to a proposed contract to increase rates to tow and store vehicles in Los Angeles.
The indictment states that the city council person was a "cooperating witness," meaning s/he was working with the FBI when Singh allegedly paid the bribe.
Singh is also charged with making false statements to the FBI in October when he falsely stated that he had never discussed the proposed tow fee increase with the city council member and when he falsely stated that he had not discussed how payments could made so as to disguise the source of the money.
Singh and his company will be summoned to appear for an arraigned on the indictment next month.
The bribery count in the indictment carries a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison for Singh. If convicted, the company could be ordered to pay a fine as high as USD 250,000.
According to a criminal complaint previously filed in this case, Singh gave a total of USD 2,650 in cheques to the city council member between August 2013 and March 2015.
"By seeking to influence a city council vote through bribes, this defendant perverted the democratic process," said United States Attorney Eileen Decker.
The bribery scheme followed an August 2013 meeting in which the City Council voted 3-2 to deny a request by HP Tow to increase towing and vehicle storage fees.
Ten days later, Singh met with the FBI cooperating witness in the first of a series of meetings that included discussions of Singh and HP Tow making campaign contributions to the city council member, according to the affidavit, which alleges that Singh offered to make the bribe payments through
third-party checks to a campaign account.