9 NYC contractors busted in NYCHA bribery scheme, DA says

More than half a dozen contractors were indicted for trying to score lucrative contracts by bribing supervisors at public housing developments in Brooklyn and Queens, officials announced Monday.

“The residents of NYCHA often live in conditions that are deplorable,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez at a press conference Monday, referring to the embattled New York City Housing Authority. “This kind of brazen bribery cannot be accepted. This cannot be the way business is done. The residents of NYCHA deserve so much better.”

The DA and the city’s Department of Investigation announced at the joint press conference the takedown of nine contractors — Lakhwinder Kumar, Charanjit Singh, Satbir Singh, Davinder Singh, Nishan Singh, Surinder Singh, Guriqbal Singh, Jaswant Banga Singh and Bakhshish Chand.

Over 35 attempted bribes were recorded totaling $20,000 in cash, $1,000 in gift cards and four bottles of Johnnie Walker scotch worth $115, according to court papers.

Three undercover videos taken during the investigation were played at the press conference, showing nervous contractors offering DOI agents posing as superintendents cash and gift cards in exchange for contracts.

Undercover videos show contractors offering DOI agents — posing as superintendents — cash and gift cards in exchange for contracts.
Brooklyn District Attorney

The bribery involved projects and repairs worth under $10,000, which don’t require soliciting multiple bids, officials said. For the smaller jobs, superintendents have the discretion to award contracts to vendors of their choice.

The probe began in 2018 after Kumar allegedly tried to bribe an assistant superintendent at a NYCHA development in Brooklyn, court papers allege. The assistant reported the incident to DOI. A month later, Kumar was recorded handing the staffer $450 in cash.

A superintendent at another housing development in Brooklyn reported a similar incident in July 2019 involving Surinder Singh and a $600 bribe.

The defendants were charged with felony bribery.
The defendants were charged with felony bribery.
Brooklyn District Attorney

In the spring of 2019, the DOI put undercover investigators at Red Hook Houses West and Lafayette Gardens in Clinton Hill. The defendants were recorded handing cash bribes of $500 to $1,000 and illicit gifts to the undercovers in exchange for contracts. The probe expanded to include bribes given at other housing developments in Brooklyn and Queens, officials said. The DA said more arrests are forthcoming.

DOI Commissioner Margaret Garnett said the agency is working with NYCHA to reform the contract awarding process to reduce opportunities for graft.

DOI has recommended that superintendents no longer have sole discretion to approve small projects and that the agency use a fixed price list for the most common jobs to prevent vendors from overcharging.

The defendants were recorded in 35 attempted bribes totaling $20K in cash, $1,000 in gift cards and four bottles of Johnnie Walker scotch.
The defendants were recorded in 35 attempted bribes totaling $20K in cash, $1,000 in gift cards and four bottles of Johnnie Walker scotch.
Brooklyn District Attorney

The defendants were all hit with charges of felony bribery and other raps and are expected to be arraigned Monday afternoon in Brooklyn Supreme Court.

If convicted, they face up to seven years in prison.

The feds sued NYCHA in 2019, accusing the agency of working harder to cover up squalid and dangerous conditions than to fix them. A monitor was appointed to oversee $2.2 million in improvements to the crumbling buildings.