Postal Annex owner sentenced for structuring currency transactions
SAN DIEGO – Lahkwinder Singh was sentenced in federal court on Sept. 7, 2018, to 36 months in federal prison and a forfeiture of $1,955,521 to the United States for structuring approximately $2,955,521 in currency transactions with domestic financial institutions. The 36-month sentence is one of the longest imposed in the Southern District of California for a structuring conviction. Singh’s closely held corporation, Lovely Singh, Inc., was ordered to forfeit $1,000,000, and serve a 5-year term of probation.
“Mr. Singh utilized a legitimate mail delivery business to distribute prescription drugs, including fentanyl and Oxycontin, throughout the United States in order to avoid detection by law enforcement,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Karen Flowers. “Mr. Singh’s actions directly contributed to the devastation of our American communities caused by the opioid epidemic. DEA will continue to investigate those seeking to profit from the illegal distribution of drugs and destruction of our communities.”
Singh and Lovely Singh, Inc., owned and operated Postal Annex franchises in Lemon Grove, California. Singh also acted as the chief financial officer of Lovely Singh, Inc. In 2006, Singh began operating the Postal Annexes as an agent of Western Union, which required that he operate under a federal license as a money transmitting business, and required that the Postal Annexes maintain a comprehensive Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering program to ensure that the Postal Annexes were vigilant in preventing unlawful funds from passing through Western Union, and the financial system at large. Singh was the designated BSA/AML officer responsible for ensuring the Postal Annexes complied with all U.S. financial and banking laws.
Instead of protecting the financial system, by no later than 2011, Singh engaged in a multi-year pattern of cash transactions below the $10,000 threshold to avoid detection by banks and law enforcement, with the intent to deposit Lovely Singh, Inc.’s cash proceeds free from scrutiny.
As Singh and Lovely Singh, Inc., admitted in each of their plea agreements, Singh and his co-defendant distributed schedule II controlled substances from the Postal Annexes to persons located throughout the United States. Couriers smuggled controlled substances into the United States from Mexico, and delivered them to the Postal Annexes. Over the course of 2011 through 2016, Singh admitted that he was aware of a high probability that hundreds of packages sent from the Postal Annexes contained a prohibited controlled substance, and he deliberately avoided learning the truth of their contents.
As he further admitted in his plea agreement, Singh structured and attempted to structure $2,955,521 of currency transactions over the course of 469 cash deposits at several domestic financial institutions such as Bank of America, N.A., and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. Singh conducted multiple deposits of less than $10,000 in cash on the same day, and over the course of several business days, into at least 19 different bank accounts with the purpose of avoiding a currency transaction report, which is the report a financial institution must file for cash deposits exceeding $10,000 during any banking day. The structured cash deposits included cash received in return for shipping the controlled substances from the Postal Annexes stores, as well as Western Union money transfer funds.
At sentencing, Judge Bashant stated that, with his millions of dollars in structured deposits, Singh “knew exactly what he was doing” – namely “avoiding detection from the government…for shipping drugs” out of the Postal Annex. The sentence imposed, as Judge Bashant stated, serves as a “very important deterrent” to third-party money launderers who are the gateway to the financial system, who like Singh, are engaged in playing a “shell game” of transactions.
Other Agencies: United States Attorney’s Office, Internal Revenue Service, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, California Department of Justice