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Indian-American charged with trying to bribe elected official

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LOS ANGELES, (Diya TV) — Sukhbir Singh, owner of Huntington Park towing business, was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of trying to bribe the city’s elected officials and then lying to FBI agents. The indictment came after FBI presented its investigation, which relied heavily on soundbites of secret recordings that were taken by the elected official while working as an informant.

A car is towed into the lot at H.P. Tow in Huntington Park earlier this year. A federal grand jury has indicted one of the company's owners. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

A car is towed into the lot at H.P. Tow in Huntington Park earlier this year. A federal grand jury has indicted one of the company’s owners. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Prosecutors dropped charges against Singh’s business partner, Jimmy Sandhu, who was also accused of bribery when the case was originally filed late last year.

Singh is alleged to have offered campaign contributions to a member of Huntington Park’s city council in exchange for the councilman proposing an increase to the city’s towing fees. Additionally, Singh has been accused of lying to FBI agents during an interview in which he denies ever having such conversations with the councilman, according to the indictment.

Singh’s attorney, Dan Shallman, responded with appall to the state’s decision to proceed with his clients prosecution.

“This is a huge government overreach,” Shallman said. “The government is mistakenly seeking to criminalize lawful, constitutionally protected small-dollar campaign contributions, the kind that happen every day in America. Mr. Singh has been unfairly targeted and we look forward to proving his innocence in court.”

Singh’s case is just the latest in a series of indictments against a group of small, mostly industrial and poor cities south of Los Angeles, mostly communities of heavy Latino electorate. These areas are widely considered to be hotbeds of political corruption and deceit — because of low civic engagement, special interests such as waste management and tow truck operators have often attempted to sway the political landscape of the community in their benefit.

In 2012, city leaders of he neighboring town of Cudahy were charged with accepting bribes in exchange for allowing the opening of a marijuana dispensary. Just two years prior to that, leaders in the city of Bell were the subjects of national scrutiny after they illegally inflated their salaries. The FBI began looking into Singh and H.P. Automotive and Tow Service Inc. in 2013, shortly after Huntington Park councilman Valentin Amezquita helped defeat a measure that would have increased fees the company charged to tow and store vehicles impounded by Huntington Park police. Singh and Sandhu have owned the company since 2001, but H.P. Tow has contracted services to Huntington Park for decades, city officials said.

Amezquita met with Singh on multiple occasions, the two had several conversations during and outside of those meetings. During each meeting, Amezquita wore a recording device, with the FBI close by and listening in. At one particular meeting, the Amezquita met with both Singh, and his aforementioned partner, Sandhu, at their tow yard. The two —Singh and Sandhu— complained that the city’s current contract prohibited them from raising rates for their services, and that if Amezquita helped them with the problem, they would return the favor, according to the court filings.

“If you have any debts after the election, we can help you to take care of that,” Singh allegedly said to Amezquita, referring to the official’s reelection campaign.

For the purpose of deniability, Singh and Sandhu said they would raise the funds from friends, according to the FBI’s affidavit.

[quote style=’1′ cite=” title=”]“This way it doesn’t look like you are doing a favor for H.P. Tow, you know, so it will keep us out of the loop,”[/quote] Singh is quoted as saying.

Singh provided the councilman with contributions totaling $2,650, according to the affidavit. Banks refused to cash $800 worth of donation checks, including one which bounced, according to the FBI. Whenever Amezquita received a donation from Singh, he took it to a bank with an FBI agent to cash it, where it was immediately entered as evidence. In the end, the Huntington Park council opted to raise the city’s towing rates, though two council members who had previously opposed the idea ended up supporting it and voting in favor. Amezquita was absent from the meeting where said vote took place.

Since news of the investigation and indictments broke, at least four other agencies have dropped or suspended their contracts with H.P. Tow.

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US sends aid, and bans travel from India

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US ends aid, bans travel from India | Diya TV News

NEW DELHI (Diya TV) — The Covid-19 crisis continues to spiral out of control in India. And now the U.S. is instituting a travel ban.  It goes into effect on May 4 but won’t apply to U.S. citizens or permanent residents and their spouses. Meanwhile foreign aid is flowing into India from places like Israel, America, and Germany.

Sikh’s in Indianapolis held a memorial service to remember the victims of the Fed Ex facility shooting last month. Four of the people who died were from the Sikh community.  Police have not identified a motive for the shooting, yet. It’s unclear if the shooter, a former employee at the facility, was targeting Sikhs. There are a high number of Sikhs, immigrants and refugees who work in the facility.

And mega stars from the Indian diaspora raised more than 3 million dollars for Covid-19 relief in India.  Jay Shetty, Lilly Singh, Deepak Chopra, and Jay Sean. The virtual event was called help India Breathe and aired on Diya TV. The funds are going to three major areas of relief on the ground including food, direct cash transfers to families, and makeshift hospitals.

You can watch the fundraiser and still continue to donate:

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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American Coronavirus aid arrives in India

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American Covid-19 aid arrives in India | Diya TV News

NEW DELHI (Diya TV) — American aid is finally starting to arrive in Covid-19 battered India as vaccination sites run out of shots and thousands of people gasp for air. A U.S. military transport plane delivered more than 400 oxygen cylinders, nearly one million rapid coronavirus test kits, and other supplies. The country has been reporting an average of more than 350,000 new cases of Covid infections every day for the past week.

After seven hours of public comment and testimony from hundreds of people on whether caste should be added to the county’s non-discrimination policy, the Santa Clara Human Rights Commission deferred their vote pending futher testimony and likely another public hearing. Equality Labs and the Hindu American Foundation each made presentations for and against this potential new category at the hearing, that was broadcast exclusively on Diya TV.
Watch the full event here:

Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made history during President Joe Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress just by taking their seats — marking the first time two women would be sitting behind the President.  Biden’s Indian American chief speech writer Vinay Reddy wrote the president’s address, adding to the historic evening.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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Death toll rises as Covid supplies head to India

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Death toll rises as Covid supplies head to India | Diya TV News

NEW DELHI (Diya TV) — No end in sight to India’s deepening Covid-19 crisis as the number of new virus cases in the country shatter records. India added nearly 400 thousand new cases on Thursday, breaking the record set a day earlier, boosting the country’s death toll to more than 200 thousand. US officials have urged Americans to leave the country because of the deteriorating conditions.

Several members of the Dalit community and their supporters are addressing the Santa Clara Human Rights Commission to discuss their experiences with caste discrimination. They want the commission to recommend that the Board of Supervisors make caste a legally protected category against discrimination like race, age, gender and sexual orientation. Equality Labs is pushing this agenda but critics say it is anti-Indian and anti-Hindu.

And the Senate overwhelmingly passed an Asian Hate crimes bill and created a new position at the Justice Department to fast track reviews of potential Covid-19 related hate crimes. 

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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