A judge in Flint, Mich., Feb. 21 denied an Indian worker’s request to withdraw his guilty plea for his role in a stamp fraud scheme.
Jatwinder Singh asked for the withdrawal, saying he would be targeted for an honor killing if he were deported back to India following his conviction (see India-West article here).
Singh had pleaded guilty in aiding the $1.3 million stamp fraud scheme in April 2017 under the assumption he would be allowed to stay in the U.S., though immigration court ruled otherwise.
Judge Linda V. Parker in Flint U.S. District Court sentenced Singh to time served and ordered him to pay $81,197 in restitution for conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Should the former Flint liquor store employee be deported, his attorney said he will be killed by his wife's family.
"This is obviously a very troubling situation," attorney Kimberly W. Stout said in an mlive.com report. "He was very much used and preyed upon in this case ... He has two children here and now he doesn't know what’s going to happen."
According to Stout's filing, Singh fled to the United States from India in 2008 after being targeted by his wife's family for an "honor killing" – a killing carried out on one who is accused of bringing shame to their family, the report said.
Because Singh's wife was of a different culture than his, the pair was not permitted by the family to marry, the court filing states, the publication added.
The filing added that when Singh proposed to the woman, she was beaten by her father and Singh was threatened with death.
In 2008, the couple obtained United States visas and lived in New York City for nearly seven years before moving to Flint with their two children – ages 6 and 8 – for work in 2014, the filing said, according to the report.
While working at the Paradise Liquor House on Fleming Road in Flint, Singh allowed his visa to expire and no longer has legal status in the United States, according to court records.
Alongside Lakhbir "Lucky" Chahal and Tony "Paco" Price, Singh pleaded guilty to a single charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud before Flint U.S. District Judge Linda V. Parker in April 2017, it said.
In July, Parker sentenced Chahal – the owner of both Liquor Plus and Paradise House and accused ringleader in the scheme – to spend between 3.5 and 4.5 years behind bars, while Price was put on probation for 1.75 to 2.25 years. Singh has not yet been sentenced.
At both liquor stores, Chahal would pay customers 50 cents cash in exchange for each dollar of their food stamps benefits, the report said.
He would also exchange benefits for ineligible items such as cigarettes and alcohol, authorities said, claiming that Chahal then illegally used the food stamp benefits to purchase stock for the stores, it added.
Singh worked for Chahal at Paradise Liquor from February to October 2015, according to court records, the report said. During that time, Singh reportedly bought Bridge Cards from beneficiaries of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, according to court documents.
Singh, at the direction of Chahal, also used the Bridge Cards to buy inventory for Paradise House of Liquor, investigators said in the report.