SAN FRANCISCO—Rajvinder Singh, 51, of Apna Bazar, the owner of a grocery store in Pleasenton, has pleaded guilty to nine counts of price gouging.
The charges stem from complaints filed on May 7, 2020. During the COVID-19 pandemic, California law restricted businesses from “profiteering during a declared state of emergency,” said District Attorney Nancy O’Malley in a statement.
California state law permits businesses to boost prices at a 10 percent limit during a state of emergency. Last May, Singh intentionally marked up nine essential items within a few days.
One item was priced at $2.99 before California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on March 4, 2020. Days later, the price spiked to $7, over a 100 percent price boost, more than 10 times the boost that state law permits.
In addition, a produce item’s price was boosted to $1.99 from 49 cents, over 30 times the permitted boost.
According to records, Thai hot chili peppers, Maggi noodles, tea bags, yellow onions, and pomegranates were among the items that were classified as having their prices overly boosted in the filed complaint.
District Attorney O’Malley conducted an investigation in collaboration with California’s Department of Justice which resulted in the discovery of a number of items that had price spikes anywhere from 60 to 400 percent.
Singh agreed to a plea deal with the Alameda County Superior Court that requires Singh to donate $20,000 to the Alameda County Community Food Bank.