Indian American pleads guilty in Vermont fraud case

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An Indian American man, Bhaskar Patel, 67, from Orlando, Florida, has agreed to plead guilty to charges of violating both the federal Anti-Kickback Act and for accepting bribes for a program that was receiving federal funds between June 2011 and April 2016, according to a signed plea agreement filed in federal court.

Patel is a former energy company manager who took more than $2.5 million in kickbacks and bribes for construction work on federal facilities, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Vermont.

Patel had some checks for the various kickbacks and bribes in multiple states and U.S. territories made out to him, while in other cases he had payments made to two of his children, identified as a son, “J.P.,” and a daughter, “F.P.,” the federal charges assert.

According to court documents, Schneider Electric Buildings America Inc. had hired Patel as a senior project manager in June 2010 and authorized him to negotiate contracts between the company and subcontractors working on federal facilities.

In November 2015, Schneider submitted a proposal for energy savings work involving VA facilities in White River Junction, Bedford, Mass., Providence, R.I., and Togus, Maine, that had “an implantation cost” of $23.7 million, financed over a period of 21 years, for a total proposed contract price of $42.5 million, according to court documents.

Six weeks later, Schneider submitted “a falsified, forged and altered bid document” allegedly from a Vermont subcontractor, who was not identified in court papers. As part of the scheme, Patel created the false document in an effort to “justify his and Schneider Electric’s improper selection” of another subcontractor for the White River Junction facility, court documents said.

The contracts were spread across the country from Maine to California and into the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, according to a 16-page document outlining the charges filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Abigail E. Averbach.

“In total, Bhaskar Patel collected approximately $2,536,119.19 in illegal kickbacks and bribes from subcontractors who hoped to and did contract with Schneider Electric in connection with federal (energy savings performance contracts),” the criminal charges state.

Patel will face up to 10 years with up to three years supervised released for each count along with a fine of up to $5.1 million on each count.

He must pay $450,000 no later than October 1 and another $500,000 by the time of sentencing.

The government also is seeking forfeiture of some property accumulated by Patel.

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