Amherst police are investigating the owner of the Taste of India restaurant, senior town officials confirmed to The Buffalo News.
Police confiscated financial records, electronic devices and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash after searching the Sheridan Drive restaurant and the home of owner Deep Singh in late October, court papers show.
The raid followed an investigation into a missing-person case, but the probe involving multiple agencies continues, even after the teenager was found safe.
“The police department has an active investigation going on into this gentleman. They executed a search warrant and seized a large amount of property,” said Town Attorney Stanley Sliwa. “I’m not at liberty to discuss what the investigation is about, but it has to do with some potential criminal involvement of this guy.”
Much of the case remains shrouded in mystery, but Singh revealed some details in a claim he filed against the town.
Singh, who declined to speak to a reporter, is demanding the town return items taken in the raid, including restaurant records and personal documents.
Many of the items, Singh contends in his complaint, were “unlawfully seized.”
Singh owns Singh Restaurant Inc., which operates Taste of India. The restaurant was located for years in the Northtown Plaza before moving across the road and east to 3192 Sheridan Drive, at Bailey Avenue.
Singh said in his State Supreme Court filing that police executed a search warrant at his Carmen Road home and at the restaurant on Oct. 23 and Oct. 24. Amherst police sought any evidence of communications between Singh and a teenager reported missing in the town earlier in October, as well as any forensic evidence or personal effects the teen may have left at either location.
A tweet from the department on Oct. 18 asked for the public’s help in finding the 14-year-old, a native of India who went missing while part of a tour group visiting the area.
A statement from Singh’s attorney, Justin White, said Singh helped police find the missing teenager but that officers continued with the "intrusion" anyway.
Amherst police later tweeted that the teen was found safe.
Singh complains through his attorney that police confiscated business records, his passport, cash, smartphones, laptops and tablets, computer disks and other items, according to a two-page inventory from police. Singh said the inventory is incomplete and the police didn’t need to take, or hold onto, many of the items in question.
A second person who was at Singh’s home at the time of the raid also has asked Amherst police to return cash and other confiscated items.
Sliwa said the town will respond to Singh’s complaint and seek an agreement to return items that aren’t needed by police as part of their investigation. Sliwa said police found about $400,000 in cash at Singh’s home and that the items taken fill a storage bin.
“That’s highly unusual,” Sliwa said. “That’ll raise hackles – any police officer who sees that amount of cash is going to start wondering where the cash is coming from.”
Speaking generally and not specifically about Singh, Sliwa said, “It could range from a gambling ring, to a drug ring to a prostitution ring.”
Assistant Police Chief Charles Cohen confirmed that the investigation is continuing even though the teen whose disappearance prompted the probe was found safe.
He said he couldn’t answer a number of questions, including what connection the teen has to Singh.
Cohen also said other agencies are assisting Amherst police but that he couldn’t identify them because that would indicate the nature of the investigation.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice in Buffalo did not say whether federal authorities are involved in the case. Nor could a State Police spokesman say whether his agency is taking part in the case.
Taste of India remains open during the criminal investigation into Singh.
Greeted by a reporter last week at his restaurant, Singh said he needed his attorney’s permission before answering any questions.
Neither Singh nor White called back.