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Queens Chronicle

Richards turns in 3 for alleged bribe

DOI: Liquor store applicant sought to change councilman’s opposition

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Posted: Thursday, September 19, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:43 am, Thu Sep 26, 2013.

Tarsem Singh, 42, the applicant who was rejected by the State Liquor Authority, was charged with two counts each of third-degree bribery and attempted bribery.

Davinder Singh, 37, and Rajinder Singh, 26, both of South Ozone Park, were arrested by investigators from the city Department of Investigation on charges of third-degree bribery and giving unlawful gratuities.

The DOI said formal charges from the office of Queens District Attorney Richard Brown were pending.

“When I was elected, I promised my constituents that I would carry myself with the utmost integrity and that I would do whatever was needed to protect our quality of life,” Richards said in a statement issued by his office. “May these arrests show those who seek to bribe public officials that our communities and our children aren’t for sale.”

When Tarsem Singh applied to the SLA to open a store at 219-11 North Conduit Ave., Richards was vocal in his opposition, as were civic leaders, parents, Community Board 13 and myriad elected officials.

The application was rejected in July.

The DOI alleges that on an unspecified date, Tarsem and Davinder Singh met with Richards at a location in Queens to discuss the councilman’s position on the matter.

The meeting reportedly was recorded on a security camera, and a review of the footage allegedly shows that both men attempted to pass cash to Richards, which he refused.

Richards reported the incident that same day, triggering the DOI investigation.

An undercover DOI investigator, posing as a representative of Richards, subsequently met and communicated with all three Singhs about the liquor store application.

The first meeting took place in June at a Queens diner, where Tarsem Singh and Rajinder Singh allegedly offered the investigator cash in exchange for Richards’ support of the liquor store.

Rajinder Singh allegedly left the diner, retrieved $500 from a car which he handed to Tarsem Singh, who then handed it to the undercover agent.

At a second meeting at the diner, Tarsem and Davinder Singh allegedly offered the investigator $2,000 in exchange for Richard’s support prior to an SLA hearing on the license.

They gave the investigator $900, and agreed to deliver the remaining $1,100 after the SLA hearing.

The DOI said that the next day, Davinder Singh allegedly sent the agent a text saying “Call the Liquor Authority. We are counting on you.”

DOI representatives have notified the SLA of the investigation, and are sharing the results of their investigation with the Authority. The findings also will be forwarded to the Taxi and Limousine Commission, where Tarsem Singh holds a license.

This is the second time in four months that a City Council member reported a bribe offer to DOI that resulted in a successful investigation and criminal charges,” said DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn in a statement issued on Friday.

She was referring to the arrest in May of Long Island City businessman Michael Wolfert, who was charged after Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) reported a suspicious email to the City Council’s General Counsel’s Office.

Wolfert, seeking to open an indoor rock-climbing facility, received a stop-work order at his site following an unscheduled Department of Buildings inspection on April 9.

The next day, he allegedly contacted Van Bramer’s office, requesting that the councilman intervene with the DOB, and promising his business’ “unconditional support” for Van Bramer’s re-election.

Wolfert allegedly was recorded by two investigators, one posing as a member of Van Bramer’s staff, and the other as a DOB inspector. The “inspector” allegedly received more than $1,000 to rescind the stop-work order

“Clearly, the good news is that there are public officials unwilling to sell their offices,” Gill Hearn said Friday in reference to Richards. “The Council member’s prompt report allowed DOI to investigate swiftly and shut down the scheme.”

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