City busts bribery suspects

City busts bribery suspects
Photo by Rich Bockmann
By Rich Bockmann

The city’s corruption cops arrested a businessman last week after the southeast Queens city councilman he allegedly tried to bribe turned him in.

The Department of Investigation said police had apprehended Tarsem Singh and two others Friday in connection with an alleged plot to bribe Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) to drop his opposition to their plans for a liquor store across the street from Springfield Gardens High School.

In May, Singh filed an application with the state Liquor Authority for 219 BS Wine & Liquor Inc., at a strip mall on the corner of North Conduit Avenue and Springfield Boulevard, a site where the community had previously protested plans for a pay-by-the-hour hotel.

After Richards and neighborhood leaders made their views known on the liquor-store proposal, Singh and an associate met with the councilman to discuss the application.

City investigators say that at that meeting, which was caught on camera, Singh allegedly tried to buy favor with Richards, who refused a cash bribe and reported the scheme to the authorities.

Singh and two of his associates later discussed the application with someone they thought was one of Richards’ representatives, but was in fact an undercover investigator.

Two of the men subsequently met with the agent on two different occasions and allegedly handed over $1,400 in cash and promised another $1,100 if Richards would support their SLA application.

“Call the Liquor Authority. We are counting on you,” the second man, Davinder Singh, texted the undercover agent the next day, according to the DOI.

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

Richards said his office is not for sale.

“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,” he said. “May these arrests show those who seek to bribe public officials that our communities and children aren’t for sale.”

South Ozone Park residents Tarsem Singh, Davinder Singh and a third associate, Rajinder Singh, were arrested Friday on bribery charges. Tarsem Singh has a license with the city Taxi and Limousine Commission, which the DOI said it notified of the investigation’s findings.

The investigation department, which recently launched an anti-corruption ad campaign, is on a bit of a hot streak in Queens.

In May, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) tipped the department off about a Long Island City businessman who allegedly pledged to fill the lawmaker’s campaign coffers if he would fast-track a city Department of Buildings permit.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4574.