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Home Run is one of the three Flushing Karaoke bars suing the NYPD for $300 million
By Gina Martinez

Three Flushing karaoke bars have sued the NYPD for $300 million, claiming they were singled out during a bribery scandal involving officers from the 109th Precinct.

The three karaoke bars—Forbidden City, Home Run KTV and 360 Lounge—contend in their lawsuit filed in Brooklyn federal court that they were harassed by officers in the 109th Precinct as part of an NYPD effort to prevent them from cooperating with a criminal investigation of police officers.

The suit claims that as Asian businesses they were intimidated and subjected to racial discrimination. The suit also says that as a result of the harassment they suffered emotional distress and loss of income. The bars are seeking $300 million in damages.

In December 2015, Detective Yatyu Yam and Lt. Robert Sung were charged with accepting money from Flushing karaoke bar owners for allegedly tipping them off whenever narcotics or vice units were planning police raids, the Queens district attorney said.

The owners of Club JJNY and Club Joyful in Flushing allegedly paid Yam $2,000 per month over the course of three years for protection, according to the criminal complaint filed by the DA.

Yam and Sung were charged with taking bribes and being rewarded for official misconduct, while Sung was also charged with obstruction, according to the DA’s office.

They were scheduled to go to trial in September.

The 2015 arrest of Yam and Sung came after two years of investigations during which several officers from the 109th Precinct were looked into. The incident was labeled the “Karaoke Bar Protection Scandal.” Of the 23 other officers investigated over the course of two years, including two captains and three sergeants, none have been indicted so far, the suit said.

In the suit, the bars claim that since 2014 multiple “Business Inspections” by police led to the arrest of employees and patrons, disrupting business and scaring off customers. During these random inspections, the officers would ask employees and patrons about the any illegal activity. The owners claim that officials took video equipment following the inspections so no evidence of the raids remained..

As a result of the inspections and officers’ constant presence, customers, particularly in the Asian community, stopped coming to the targeted businesses, according to the suit. Officers would enter the businesses under the guise of an inspection although there were no violations and stay for hours on end, according to the suit. Undercover officers would stop and frisk Asian patrons in the establishments without any legal basis, the suit claims.

In the lawsuit, the owners claim that Police Commissioner William J. Bratton targeted their businesses using the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau and other federal, state, and local government agencies. They claim they and other witnesses were intimidated into not cooperating with the criminal investigation into the officers involved in the Karaoke Bar Protection scandal in order to protect his legacy as commissioner. The suit claims Bratton engaged in similar tactics during the “Dirty 30” scandal in the early 1990s, in which over 30 officers were arrested for stealing drug money from Dominicans and other people of color in Manhattan.

The bars are being represented by Manhattan lawyer Eric Sanders.

“Here, we have all of this legislative reform regarding police corruption in New York City, yet the public still suffers,” he said. “In this matter, no one knows the depth of the police corruption in the ‘Karaoke Bar Protection Scandal.’ Certainly, my clients feel the mayor, police commissioner and district attorney are simply waiting for everything to blow over and then close the criminal case, handling everything within the NYPD as in other police scandals.”

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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