Nine contractors have been indicted for bribery, giving unlawful gratuities, and conspiracy for allegedly offering NYCHA employees bribes in exchange for "micro purchase" contracts.
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced the indictment with New York City Department of Investigation Commissioner Margaret Garnett on Monday.
Gonzalez said Lakhwinder Kumar of Kumar Construction Corp in Queens; Charanjit Singh and Satbir Singh of Fine Touch Construction in Queens; Davinder Singh and Nishan Singh of Yuvi Development Inc., and NB Builders in Hicksville; Surinder Singh, and Guriqbal Singh of A. Peter Luger Construction, PKG Contracting Corp. and Heera and G. Builders in Queens; Jaswant Banga Singh of Khushi Construction Inc in New Hyde Park; and Bakhshish Chand of Amar Contracting in Queens were found committing bribery by an NYC Department of Investigation began an undercover probe.
The men are variously charged in multiple indictments with third-degree bribery, first-degree offering a false instrument for filing, giving unlawful gratuities and fifth-degree conspiracy.
"These defendants allegedly tried to seek favors from NYCHA superintendents by offering them bribes, corrupting a process meant to ensure contracts are fairly awarded," Gonzalez said.
Between December 2018 and May 2021 the contractors allegedly paid bribes or unlawful gratuities to NYCHA employees or undercover investigators totaling about $20,000 in cash, in addition to two $500 gift cards and four bottles of Johnnie Walker scotch with a total approximate value of $115 in exchange for various jobs such as tile work, installation of tub enclosures, installation of a chain link fence, and repairing windows.
For larger construction projects and repairs that need to be done by an outside contractor, NYCHA often receives multiple bids before awarding a contract. For smaller repairs involving contracts up to $10,000, NYCHA started the micro purchase process which does not require multiple bids. Instead, the superintendent or assistant superintendent of a housing development has the discretion to choose a vendor and request an estimate.
Gonzalez said the investigation showed in November 2018 Lakhwinder Kumar allegedly told an assistant superintendent at a NYCHA development in Brooklyn that he appreciated the jobs he received and offered him money. That employee reported the bribe offer to DOI, which then equipped him with audio and video recording devices. A month later the defendant was recorded allegedly handing that assistant superintendent $450 in exchange for a micro purchase job at the development.
Then in July 2019, in an unrelated incident, Surinder Singh, allegedly handed $600 cash to the superintendent of another NYCHA development in Brooklyn. The employee tried to return the money, but Singh allegedly refused to take it. The superintendent then reported the matter to DOI. A few weeks later, he allegedly left cash in the employee's office who again reported it to DOI, which then equipped the employee with audio and video recording devices.
Starting in Spring 2019, DOI placed undercover investigators posing as assistant superintendents at the Red Hook Houses West and Lafayette Gardens in Clinton Hill. Over a period of many months, the undercover at Red Hook allegedly recorded a number of contractors including Charanjit Singh and Satbir Singh, who are partners; Davinder Singh and Nishan Singh, who are brothers; and another contractor, Guriqbal Singh, discussing jobs at the development on numerous occasions and handing the undercover amounts of cash ranging from $500 to $1,000 in exchange for micro purchase jobs.
The undercover at Lafayette Gardens allegedly recorded Kumar, Charanjit Singh and another contractor also allegedly giving cash bribes to the undercover.
As the investigation continued, it expanded to capture recordings of Surinder Singh allegedly paying additional bribes to a NYCHA employee at a NYCHA development in Brooklyn and Jaswant Banga Singh and Bakhshish Chand allegedly giving cash bribes to an employee at a NYCHA development in Queens.
Commissioner Garnett said bribery was one of the "oldest and most blatant forms of public corruption," but it cannot take root when honest people report it.
"This investigation is a prime example of why combatting corruption is so important Â— it supports equity in this City and defends government's ability to do its job honestly and place the public interest above personal advantage."
Both Garnett and Gonzalez thanked the NYCHA employees who came forward to report the bribe offers, kicking off the investigation.