SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – What began with a neighborhood complaint about a problem house led to the landlord’s conviction Monday on 16 felony counts of fraud, forgery and conspiracy. Raghvendra “Raj” Singh, 57, faces up to 13 years in state prison when he’s sentenced March 13.
Singh has a long history of buying properties and allowing them to become a nuisance – then suing anyone who challenges his bad behavior. A recent example is the house at 6136 Demonte Way in Elk Grove, which neighbors say became a magnet for drug use and prostitution.
Bidders and observers at a public auction
Neighborhood watch captain Nate Champion led the effort to clean up the house and consequently became the target of a $90 million lawsuit filed by Singh. Others who’ve been sued by Singh claim he lies about having them served, which can lead to a judgment against them by default. Champion says that’s what happened in his case.
CBS13 has identified at least 30 properties owned by Singh and his wife, Kiran Rawat, under various names.
Many of them are the source of conflict with neighbors and code enforcement. In the most extreme case, a woman initially described as a squatter died in a fire in December 2013 in a boarded-up house owned by Singh at 4510 Stockton Blvd. in Sacramento.
Singh later admitted the woman, Rosa Trejo, was living there with his permission and was paying rent.
Singh has occasionally been arrested, as he was in Mineral County, Nevada in 2014 for a commercial marijuana operation in the motel he owned across the highway from an elementary school. But the years of flagrant misbehavior and lawsuit abuse had never led to a criminal complaint – until now.
Last summer, Singh was charged with multiple counts of filing false legal instruments – most of them related to the Elk Grove house. He has been held without bail since the June arrest.
During his trial Singh insisted on testifying in his own defense, reportedly against the advice of his attorney. For two days Singh struggled on the witness stand under cross examination to name the people who had purportedly prepared his legal documents and had sworn they had properly served his adversaries. Singh told the jury he used six paralegals he found on the internet and gave them permission to sign his name on legal documents, but he could not name any of them or explain how they received payment.
Singh’s testimony was often in conflict with what he’d said during the preliminary hearing last year or what he’d told an investigator from the district attorney’s office.
Two years ago the city of Elk Grove filed a public nuisance lawsuit against Singh’s wife, Rawat, the owner of record of the Demonte Way house. But on Jan. 17, 2019 – two days before the civil trial was to begin – a grant deed was filed with the county recorder transferring ownership of the Elk Grove house and another nuisance property at 3534 51st Ave. in Sacramento to someone named Rajkumari Sanger.
Singh initially told the investigator a paralegal had recorded the deeds, although video surveillance at the recorder’s office showed it was actually Singh himself. Singh told the investigator Rajkumari Sanger was a man, but on the stand Singh said the new owner of the two properties is his brother’s mother-in-law and she lives in India. At first he claimed he knows her very well, but when challenged he said he had only spoken to her once.
Jury foreman David Ramos told CBS13 Singh made a grave mistake in choosing to take the stand.
“It was an error on his part and it was valuable to us in trying to come to the right verdict,” Ramos said moments after the verdicts were read. The jury also confirmed a special allegation that the crimes were significant enough to warrant the maximum penalty.
Singh’s wife earlier pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors in exchange for 60 days in the county jail. Her agreement calls for the couple to surrender seven problem properties to a court-appointed receiver.
The case was brought by deputy district attorney Leslie Kolb, a member of the community prosecution unit which focuses on criminal activity involving code enforcement and other quality-of-life issues that are not typically handled by traditional prosecutors.
As she left the courthouse, Kolb said she was anxious to share the news with the people who had been wronged by Singh and his wife. Champion, the Elk Grove neighbor, responded by texting “our neighborhood feels vindicated.”
Here is a list of the properties to be surrendered to a court-appointed receiver under Kiran Rawat’s plea agreement:
- 10160 Brian Kelly Way, Elk Grove
- 7809 Cotton Ln, Elk Grove
- 3534 51st Ave, Sacramento
- 2740 Crosby Way, Sacramento
- 2750 Crosby Way, Sacramento
- 7749 Rose Petal Way, Sacramento
- 743 M Street, Rio Linda