Co-Owner of Huntington Park Towing Company Indicted on Charges of Bribing City Council Member to Secure Tow Fee Increase
LOS ANGELES – The co-owner of a towing business was named in a federal grand jury indictment returned today that charges him with paying a bribe to a member of the Huntington Park City Council in an attempt to obtain support for a proposed fee increase for towing and vehicle storage.
Sukhbir Singh, 39, and his company, H.P. Automotive & Tow, Inc., were charged today in a two-count indictment that accuses Singh and his company of paying a bribe “to influence and reward” the city councilmember in relation to official action related to a proposed contract to increase rates to tow and store vehicles in Huntington Park.
The indictment states that the city councilperson was a “cooperating witness,” meaning s/he was working with the FBI when Singh allegedly paid the bribe.
Singh is also charged with making false statements to the FBI in October when he falsely stated that he had never discussed the proposed tow fee increase with the city councilmember and when he falsely stated that he had not discussed how payments could made so as to disguise the source of the money.
According to a criminal complaint previously filed in this case, Singh gave a total of $2,650 in checks to the city councilmember between August 2013 and March 2015, although the affidavit in support of the complaint notes that two checks totaling $800 were rejected for insufficient funds and because a signature was illegible.
“By seeking to influence a city council vote through bribes, this defendant perverted the democratic process,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “The public deserves to be confident that its elected officials are making decisions in the best interests of the people they serve.”
“City residents deserve honest government and should not tolerate it when bribe payments dictate how their town is run,” said David Bowdich, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Field Office. “We encourage anyone with knowledge of bribes being paid or being proffered to contact the FBI to report the allegations confidentially.”
The bribery scheme followed an August 19, 2013 meeting in which the City Council voted 3-2 to deny a request by H.P. Tow to increase towing and vehicle storage fees. Ten days later, Singh met with the FBI cooperating witness in the first of a series of meetings that included discussions of Singh and H.P. Tow making campaign contributions to the city councilmember, according to the affidavit, which alleges that Singh offered to make the bribe payments through third-party checks to a campaign account.
The Huntington Park City Council approved the fee increases for H.P. Tow in January in a vote in which the cooperating witness did not participate.
Singh and H.P Tow will be summoned to appear for an arraigned on the indictment next month.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
The bribery count in the indictment carries a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison for Singh. If convicted, the company could be ordered to pay a fine as high as $250,000. The false statement charge in the indictment carries a statutory maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.