Press Releases

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Charges Bronx Not-For-Profit Program Director With Bribery

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday July 16, 2012

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Catherine Leahy Scott, the Acting Inspector General for the State of New York (“NY State IG”), announced today the unsealing of an indictment charging SATNARINE SEEBACHAN, a program director at Bronx Shepherds Restoration Corporation (“Bronx Shepherds”), a not-for-profit corporation in the Bronx, New York, with soliciting and accepting bribes in the form of labor and materials for the renovation of his residence from contractors who received federally funded contracts from Bronx Shepherds.   SEEBACHAN surrendered to authorities this morning, and is expected to be presented and arraigned in Manhattan federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Frank Maas this afternoon.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As alleged, Satnarine Seebachan used his power to control certain federal purse strings to buy for himself elaborate home renovations at significant discounts, and in some cases, for free.  Abuse and exploitation of the federal contracting system will not be tolerated and those who engage in this conduct will be held to account.”

New York State Acting Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott: “It is an outrage that a person placed in a position of trust in overseeing bids and awarding contracts that utilize funds designated to assist New Yorkers in need would take advantage of his position for  personal gain.  My office is committed to ensuring that any person placed in a position of trust is held to the highest standards of integrity.  New Yorkers must have confidence that processes are in place to prevent similar wrongdoing for recipients of specialized funding and services.”

The following allegations are based on the Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:

Bronx Shepherds provides housing restoration to income eligible individuals in the Bronx, New York.  SEEBACHAN has been employed by the not-for-profit as a program director since 1993.  In that capacity, SEEBACHAN is responsible for administering, among other things, two federally funded home improvement programs, the Weatherization Assistance Program (“Weatherization Program”) and the Home Program (“Home Program”) (collectively, the “Programs”).

The Weatherization Program is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  It provides weatherization assistance to buildings with low-income residents in order to make the buildings more energy efficient, such as improved lighting and heating systems, window caulking, and wall and ceiling insulation.  The Home Program is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.  The Home Program provides renovation assistance to low-income individuals who reside in small family homes, such as repairs to ceilings, bathrooms, kitchens, windows, and sidewalks.  In connection with his administration of the Weatherization and Home Programs, SEEBACHAN was in charge of the bidding process that was used to select the construction companies hired to perform the necessary work on the buildings, apartments, and houses that Bronx Shepherds had selected to participate in the Programs. 

In 2005, SEEBACHAN purchased a residence in Glen Cove, New York.  In the spring and summer of 2006 and again in 2010, at the request of SEEBACHAN, certain construction companies that bid for, and received, numerous contracts from Bronx Shepherds to perform renovation work under the Programs (the “Contractors”) supplied materials and labor for construction and renovation work performed at SEEBACHAN’s residence. 

The scope of work performed by the Contractors at SEEBACHAN’s residence included interior renovation and repair work, roof repair work, and outside stone and concrete work.  At the request of SEEBACHAN, the Contractors also purchased and/or ordered certain materials for the renovation of his residence, including marble, stone, sand, concrete, and windows, using their trade discount.  In addition, SEEBACHAN asked one particular Contractor (“Contractor-1”) to introduce him to a marble vendor, and then gave or directed the invoices for his purchases from the vendor to Contractor-1 for payment.  At the time Contractor-1 performed work at SEEBACHAN’s house and paid for the marble, SEEBACHAN told Contractor-1 that he would make it worth his while and would help him win contracts to perform repairs on apartment buildings Bronx Shepherds owned and managed.  The total dollar value of the labor, materials, and discounts on materials that SEEBACHAN obtained from the Contractors was approximately $100,000.

*          *          *

SEEBACHAN, 50, of Glen Cove, New York, is charged with one count of bribery concerning an organization that receives federal program funds, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. 

U.S. District Judge George B. Daniels has been assigned to case.

Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the New York State Inspector General’s Office.

This case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit.  Assistant United States Attorney Carrie H. Cohen is in charge of the prosecution.

The charge contained in the Indictment is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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