Businessman Pleads Guilty in Scheme to Defraud Government
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Florida businessman pleaded guilty Friday to defrauding the federal government of more than $1 million through dairy export contracts.
Harjit Singh, president of two export companies, won eight contracts from the Agriculture Department to sell dry milk powder to a company he claimed was located in Dubai of the United Arab Emirates.
The United States has targeted Dubai as an export market that qualifies for government subsidies, but Singh’s dry milk was actually sold to a food manufacturer in the Philippines, prosecutors said. The Philippines was not a country targeted for subsidies.
Singh, president of U.S. exporting companies Milk Maid Inc. and MMI International Corp., won the fraudulent contracts between June and December 1993, according to Eric Holder, U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.
The milk was supposed to be sold to a Dubai company called Marhar International Ltd. But Marhar was an offshore company created and controlled solely by Singh, and the milk was actually sold and delivered to General Milling Corp. in the Philippines, Holder said..
``Had Singh been truthful to the USDA in his bids, none of these eight contracts would have been awarded to him,″ Holder said in a statement.
Singh, 41, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., also submitted a number of fraudulent shipping documents to the Agriculture Department to hide the true destination of the exports and used foreign bank accounts to conceal the proceeds of the sales, Holder said.
``Overall, this scheme netted Singh’s companies $1,018,679 in fraudulently obtained subsidy payments from the USDA,″ he said.
U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan set a Jan. 15 sentencing date for Singh. He could be sentenced up to five years and prison and fined up to $250,000 on the plea.