Hotel Magnate Chatwal Pleads Guilty to Federal Election Campaign Charges

Sant Singh Chatwal admits guilt

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New York – Sant Singh Chatwal, 70, of New York, pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of New York to conspiring to violate the Federal Election Campaign Act (the “Election Act”) by making more than $180,000 in federal campaign donations to three candidates through straw donors who were reimbursed and to witness tampering, according to an announcement made by Acting Assistant Attorney General David A. O’Neil of the Criminal Division of the US Department of Justice, US Attorney Loretta E. Lynch of the Eastern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge George Venizelos of the FBI’s New York Field Office and Chief Richard Weber of the Internal Revenue Service–Criminal Investigation.

“Chatwal admitted that he used straw donors to secretly funnel money to political campaigns so that he could gain access to the politicians, and he coerced another person to hide his crime,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General O’Neil, adding, “Chatwal went to great lengths to undermine both election laws and our system of justice. Today’s guilty plea shows our vigilance and determination to prosecute those who damage the integrity of elections by masking the true sources of campaign contributions.”

According to court filings and facts presented during the plea proceeding, Chatwal operated several businesses, including restaurants, hotels, and a hotel management company. From 2007 to 2011, Chatwal used his employees, business associates, and contractors who performed work on his hotels (the “Chatwal Associates”) to solicit campaign contributions on Chatwal’s behalf in support of various candidates for federal office and PACs, collect these contributions, and pay reimbursements for these contributions.

“The Election Act’s spending limits are in place to limit financial influence in federal elections and to ensure transparency as to the identity of donors,” said US Attorney Lynch. “Chatwal’s scheme sought to subvert the very purpose of the Election Act. Chatwal then rolled the dice to stymie the government’s investigation, thinking he could corruptly convince witnesses to his federal election crimes to stay silent. That gamble did not pay off. Today’s conviction sends a clear message that this office is committed to vigorously investigating and prosecuting individuals who are responsible for committing crimes in connection with federal campaign donations and witness tampering.”

With the guilty plea proceeding with the government taking place before United States District Judge I. Leo Glasser of the Eastern District of New York, Chatwal agreed to forfeit $1 million to the United States.

“Attempting to buy elections through illegal campaign contributions is unacceptable. It is also illegal,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge Venizelos. “Americans rightfully expect that elections will be free and fair. The FBI will continue investigating every case of abuse, wherever we find it.”

Further according to court filings, Chatwal and the Chatwal Associates induced straw donors to make these campaign contributions, promising them that they would be reimbursed. Chatwal orchestrated a scheme to make approximately $188,000 in campaign contributions to three candidates for federal office via straw donors, and he often arranged for the straw donors to be reimbursed through the Chatwal Associates, ultimately paying for the reimbursed contributions with funds belonging to Chatwal or one of Chatwal’s companies.

“Mr. Chatwal admitted his actions were designed to circumvent the Election Act,” said IRS-CI Chief Weber. “IRS-CI’s ability to adapt our financial investigative skills to cases where they are needed uniquely equips our agents to defend and uphold America’s trust in the fairness of the electoral process.”

There was, however, no allegation that the candidates participated in, or were aware of, Chatwal’s scheme.

For complete Department of Justice statement:

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