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.

“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 Author

 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.