A campaign donor pleaded guilty to trying to bribe Mayor Bill de Blasio in exchange for a lease renewal with favorable terms for his restaurant on city-owned property.
Harendra Singh quietly pleaded guilty to bribery and honest services wire fraud in October 2016, according to a the New York Times report based on recently unsealed court documents. The F.B.I. and the United States attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York investigated the relationship between the mayor and Singh for 18 months but announced in March 2017 that de Blasio wouldn’t face criminal charges. Singh wasn’t so lucky.
In June 2014, Singh approached de Blasio at a fundraising event and asked him to do something about the city’s lease for his restaurant, Water’s Edge, located on a barge on the East River in Long Island City. At the time, Singh was facing arrears and late rent charges from the city totaling $1.2 million, the Times reported. He was also in need of a renewal for the lease, which was set to expire in 2017.
Singh, his family members and other associates raised a total of $33,000 for de Blasio since 2010. In July 2015, he met with one of the mayor’s top aides, Emma Wolfe, and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services to convince the city agency to provide more favorable leasing terms. The city agency tentatively agreed to more favorable settlement terms just before Singh arrested on bribery charges in an unrelated case on Long Island.
“The allegations against this administration were never proven because they are not true,” Eric Phillips, de Blasio’s press secretary, told the Times. “They are old news that’s been widely reported and reviewed extensively by federal prosecutors before they closed their investigation. We make decisions on the merits. Period.” [NYT] — Kathryn Brenzel