OAKLAND – A former Bay Area manager for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) pleaded guilty this week to wire fraud charges and conspiring to violate the federal conflict of interest statute for orchestrating a fraudulent billing scheme involving a truck leasing company he operated with this wife.
Balvinder Singh Chadha, 45, of Union City, admitted he was an investor and the de facto head of a company called Golden Pacific Logistics, Inc. (GPL) while employed as the manager of vehicle service operations at a USPS facility in Oakland. GPL was established for the purpose of obtaining truck leasing contracts with the USPS unit Chadha managed.
The case is the result of a multi-year probe by the USPS Office of Inspector General's Major Fraud Investigations Division and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
In July 2005, Chadha endorsed GPL during the procurement process for a USPS truck leasing contract that was ultimately awarded to GPL. Over the next four years, GPL billed USPS for trucks that were never leased, mileage that was never incurred and maintenance costs that were never authorized under GPL's contract. Using his USPS position, Chadha authorized payments to GPL and requested at least 18 modifications of the original contract, which extended the length of the contract and increased the number of trucks authorized for leasing. All told, GPL billed and received more than $6.4 million, which included at least $4.4 million in fraudulent billing.
Chada's wife, Jaspinder Kaur Chada, 39, pleaded guilty March 28 to her role in the fraud conspiracy.
In pleading guilty, the defendants admitted conspiring to violate the federal conflict of interest statute, which prohibited Balvinder Chadha, as an USPS employee, from participating in a contract in which he and his wife had a financial interest. The defendants admitted they engaged in a variety of measures to conceal Balvinder's association with GPL and create the appearance that he and GPL were engaged in an arm's-length business relationship.
The Chadhas were charged in a two-count information filed March 16. Count one charged Balvinder Chadha with committing wire fraud and count two charged him and his wife with conspiring to violate the federal conflict of interest statute. In addition, the information contains a forfeiture allegation against Balvinder Chadha in relation to the wire fraud offense. Pursuant to their respective plea agreements, Balvinder Chadha pleaded guilty to both counts and his wife pleaded guilty to count two.
"As federal agencies, we have a responsibility to combat fraud and ensure taxpayers' dollars are not being misspent," said Clark Settles, special agent in charge for HSI San Francisco. "These guilty pleas should send a message about the serious consequences facing those who seek to exploit their position for personal gain at the expense of the American people."
"The vast majority of Postal Service employees and contractors are hard-working professionals dedicated to the furtherance of Postal Service operations," said Joanne Yarbrough, special agent in charge for the Major Fraud Investigations Division of the USPS Office of Inspector General. "However, when employees and contractors violate the public trust, as in this case, we will investigate those individuals aggressively and seek prosecution to the fullest extent of the law."
The Chadhas were both released on bond. Their sentencing is set for July 11. Wire fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years and the conspiracy charge is punishable by up to five years in prison. Additionally, each count carries a possible fine up to $250,000, or twice the gross pecuniary gain or twice the gross pecuniary loss, whichever is greater.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew S. Huang is prosecuting the case aided by legal assistants Vanessa Vargas and Jeanne Carstensen. Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Gray also provided assistance with the the case.