Bloomberg News

New York Hotelier Pleads Guilty to Illegal Donation Scheme (1)

April 17, 2014

The chairman of a company that helps manage the Plaza Hotel in New York pleaded guilty to a scheme to raise illegal campaign contributions for political candidates using straw donors.

Sant Singh Chatwal, an Indian-American businessman who has donated to Democrats including Hillary Clinton in his own name, pleaded guilty today in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, to conspiring to violate federal campaign finance laws and to one count of witness tampering. Recipients of the donations weren’t identified in court.

Chatwal, 70, used “numerous straw donors,” including employees and contractors, to provide contributions in excess of federal limits, U.S. District Judge Leo Glasser said, referencing a criminal information unsealed today.

The businessman used the scheme to raise about $188,000 for at least three different candidates from March 2007 to August 2011, prosecutors alleged. Chatwal also was charged with witness tampering for attempting to prevent a conspirator, who wasn’t named in the court filing, from giving information to law enforcement.

The Federal Election Campaign Act in 2010 limited contributions from individuals to a total of $2,400 per candidate per campaign in a calendar year. The law also prohibits making contributions in the name of others, known as straw donors.

Plea Agreement

Chatwal faces a maximum of 25 years in prison. Under a plea agreement, he may be sentenced to a little more than five years. Prosecutors said he agreed to forfeit $1 million to the government. He was released on $750,000 bail.

“Mr. Chatwal deeply regrets his actions and accepts full responsibility for the consequences,” Lesley Bogdanow, a spokeswoman for Chatwal with Sard Verbinnen & Co., said in a statement. “He looks forward to resolving this personal matter.”

Hampshire Hotels Management LLC, Chatwal’s firm, owns or manages about a dozen hotels including the Chatwal Hotel in New York, Dream hotels in New York, Florida, Thailand and India, and food and beverage for the Plaza, according to its website.

“Chatwal sought to buy access to power through unlimited and illegal campaign contributions, funneling money from the shadows through straw donors,” Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement. “Chatwal’s scheme sought to subvert the very purpose of the Election Act.”

The case is U.S. v. Chatwal, 14-cr-00143, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).

To contact the reporter on this story: Christie Smythe in Brooklyn at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at Stephen Farr, Joe Schneider

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