DOJ: Nonprofit director accepted home renovations as bribes

Michael P. Tremoglie Jul. 19, 2012, 12:43pm

NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - The Department of Justice has indicted the program director of a New York nonprofit on bribery charges.

Satnarine Seebachan, 50, of Glen Cove, N.Y., is a program director at Bronx Shepherds Restoration Corporation a not-for-profit corporation in the Bronx. The DOJ on Tuesday announced his indictment for soliciting and accepting bribes in the form of labor and materials for the renovation of his residence from contractors who received federally funded contracts from Bronx Shepherds.

Seebachan surrendered to authorities the same day he was formally indicted. He was arraigned in Manhattan federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Frank Maas.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: "As alleged, Satnarine Seebachan used his power to control certain federal purse strings to buy for himself elaborate home renovations at significant discounts, and in some cases, for free. Abuse and exploitation of the federal contracting system will not be tolerated and those who engage in this conduct will be held to account."

Seebachan was accused of requesting contractors who bid for contracts for weatherization and construction projects administered by Bronx Shepherd to do renovations for his private residence. He was a program director at Bronx for almost 20 years and the administrator of two federally funded home improvement programs, the Weatherization Assistance Program and the Home Program.

The Weatherization Program, funded by the Energy Department and the Department of Health and Human Services, provides weatherization assistance to buildings with low-income residents in order to make the buildings more energy efficient, such as improved lighting and heating systems, window caulking and wall and ceiling insulation.

The Home Program is funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and provides renovation assistance to low-income individuals who reside in small family homes, such as repairs to ceilings, bathrooms, kitchens, windows and sidewalks.

Seebachan purchased a residence in Glen Cove in 2005. During the spring and summer of 2006 and again in 2010, at his request, certain construction companies that received numerous contracts from Bronx Shepherds supplied materials and labor for construction and renovation work performed at his residence, the DOJ claims.

The scope of work included interior renovation and repair work, roof repair work and outside stone and concrete work, the DOJ claims. Contractors also allegedly purchased materials for the renovation of his residence - including marble, stone, sand, concrete and windows - using their trade discount. The total dollar value of the labor, materials and discounts on materials that he obtained from the contractors was approximately $100,000, the DOJ claims.

He is charged with "one count of bribery concerning an organization that receives federal program funds." He could receive a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

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