| NEW YORK, April 17
NEW YORK, April 17 A prominent hotel executive
in New York pleaded guilty on Thursday to conspiring to make
$188,000 of illegal campaign contributions to three U.S.
candidates via straw donors.
Sant Singh Chatwal, chairman of Hampshire Hotels Management,
pleaded guilty in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, to
criminal charges of conspiring to violate the Federal Election
Campaign Act and witness tampering.
The identifies of the candidates were not disclosed except
that they ran for federal office. A straw donor is someone who
illegally uses someone else's money to make campaign
contributions in his or her own name.
As part of a plea agreement, Chatwal, 70, agreed not to
appeal any prison sentence shorter than 5-1/4 years. He faces a
maximum of 25 years in prison. The defendant also agreed to
forfeit $1 million.
Chatwal entered his plea at a hearing before U.S. District
Judge Leo Glasser, saying simply, "I plead guilty, sir."
The case was unveiled two weeks after Hampshire named Eric
Danizger to replace Chatwal as chief executive.
Chatwal was to remain chairman of the privately held New
York-based company, which was founded in 1986 and operates
hotels in New York, Miami and the United Kingdom. Chatwal is
also the founder of the Bombay Palace restaurant chain.
Prosecutors said Chatwal from 2007 to 2011 used employees,
business associates and hotel contractors to solicit
contributions, which he would reimburse, on behalf of various
federal candidates and political action committees.
They said the scheme violated federal limits on campaign
contributions by individuals, which in 2008 were $4,600 per
candidate and in 2010 were $4,800.
In a recorded conversation discussed in court papers,
Chatwal allegedly told a government informant that without
political contributions, "nobody will even talk to you....
That's the only way to buy them, get into the system."
Prosecutors also said Chatwal tampered with a witness in
June 2012, more than two years after a grand jury investigation
had been launched.
"Mr. Chatwal deeply regrets his actions and accepts full
responsibility for the consequences," Lesley Bogdanow, a
spokeswoman for Chatwal. "He looks forward to resolving this
Bogdanow and Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch declined
to identify the candidates who received the improper donations.
Chatwal was released on $750,000 bail. Glasser scheduled the
sentencing for July 31.
The case is U.S. v. Chatwal, U.S. District Court, Eastern
District of New York, No. 14-cr-00143.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Cynthia