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News from:
City Attorney Barbara Parker

April 23, 2015

Oakland City Attorney Secures Settlement in Fraud Case against Prominent Taxi Family

Settlement resolves City’s lawsuit against Dhar Mann, reality TV persona and member of a family with extensive real estate and business interests in Oakland

Oakland, CA – Today City Attorney Barbara Parker announced the resolution of the City’s 2012 fraud lawsuit against members of a family with extensive real estate and business interests in Oakland including a prominent taxi company.

Under the terms of a recent settlement of a civil lawsuit filed by the Oakland City Attorney in 2012, the defendants will pay the City $37,500 in civil penalties under the California False Claims Act.  One of the defendants, minor reality TV persona Dhar Mann, pleaded no contest in 2014 to five felony counts related to a scheme to defraud the City by submitting false claims and receipts in order to receive redevelopment grant money.

This civil settlement amount is on top of $44,400 in restitution Mann paid to the City under the terms of his criminal conviction.  The restitution covered the full amount the City paid defendants due to their fraud scheme.

Mann is a member of the Singh family, which owns the Friendly Cab taxi company and other interests in Oakland. Mann founded the marijuana business “weGrow” and appeared on the reality TV show “Shahs of Sunset.”

“$37,500 is not a huge amount of money for these defendants. But this lawsuit demonstrates that no matter how connected you are, or how much money you have, or how many photos of your Lamborghini you post on social media, we will hold you accountable if you attempt to defraud Oakland taxpayers," Parker said. “My Office will continue to work with the City Auditor and other agencies to ensure that City residents are protected from fraud and rip-off schemes."

Parker also thanked Deputy City Attorney Pelayo Llamas, the lead attorney on the case.

Evidence in the City’s lawsuit showed that Mann and the other defendants received at least six grant contracts to pay for development plans, façade renovation and other work at five Oakland properties, including the headquarters of the Friendly Cab taxi company owned by Mann’s family. Evidence showed that the defendants participated in a scheme to overbill the City for work on the properties, and in some cases, submitted claims for thousands of dollars of work that was never done.

Mann and the other defendants received at least $75,000 of grant funds from the City and the City’s former Redevelopment Agency over a period of several years. About $30,000 was used to pay for improvements at the intended properties. The rest was paid based on false, forged or misleading claims and documentation.

For example, on multiple occasions Mann secured cashier’s checks to pay contractors for work authorized under the grant agreements. But instead of paying the contractors, Mann deposited the cashier’s checks in his company’s bank account. He then submitted photocopies of the checks to the City – falsely claiming that the contractors had been paid – and received payments of grant funds as reimbursement. Some of the checks were endorsed with the phrase “Not used for purpose intended.”

In other instances, defendants negotiated with contractors to reduce their bills, but submitted false claims for reimbursement at the original higher price. Other documents and checks submitted to the City contained false information.

Mann’s 2014 criminal sentence includes five years of probation, during which time he is prohibited from applying for government grants or similar funding.

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