Indo American Drug seller pleads guilty

One of several defendants in criminal cases stemming from a June raid on local convenience stores selling designer drugs pleaded guilty and was sentenced Tuesday.

Manpreetpal “Sunny” Singh was new to the United States and was simply following the directions of his superiors, who distributed designer drugs called “bath salts” until authorities cracked down, conducting raids and arresting several people, defense attorney Mark McKinney argued.

But in imposing a sentence, Delaware Circuit Court 5 Judge Thomas Cannon Jr. noted that Singh seemed quite familiar with the product he was selling.

“His role might have been minimal, but his comments (as recounted by police after the raid) seemed to indicate he knew exactly what he was doing,” Cannon said. “This definitely seems to be the Lt. Calley defense, ‘I was just following orders,’ and that’s not real acceptable.”

The judge’s reference was to William Calley, an Army officer found guilty of murder in a massacre during the Vietnam War.

Nevertheless, Cannon for the most part went along with recommendations of a court probation officer and prosecutors, accepting Singh’s guilty plea to a modified charge of dealing in a counterfeit substance. The Delaware County prosecutor’s office is now expected to dismiss a charge of money laundering, a felony count.

On June 11, authorities — acting on a nine-month investigation — raided several local homes and convenience stores, including one in Yorktown where Singh worked.

Before Singh’s guilty plea in court on Tuesday, three other store clerks had pleaded guilty to dealing in a counterfeit substance, a Class D felony carrying a standard 18-month prison term.

As was the case with the previous defendants, Singh received an agreed-upon sentence of 364 days in jail. In this case, Cannon ordered that Singh serve the sentence — minus two days already served — under home detention and electronic monitoring through Delaware County Community Corrections.

Singh must report in person to DCCC until a landline — necessary for the electronic monitoring — can be installed at the house where he will serve his sentence.

Singh, who at times during Tuesday’s hearing spoke through an interpreter, offered through defense attorney McKinney a tale similar to those told by earlier defendants, recounting fleeing from his native India under threat of physical violence.