Businessman Facing $179 Million Fraud Case Arrested While Trying to Flee U.S.

Nikesh Patel was caught at an airport in Florida when he tried to board a flight to Ecuador.


An Indian American businessman, Nikesh Patel, from Orlando was re-arrested over the weekend in Florida’s Kissimmee when he tried to board a flight to Ecuador after pleading guilty to $179 million fraud.

“On January 6, 2018, Patel traveled from his residence to the Kissimmee Gateway Airport in Kissimmee, Florida for the purpose of fleeing the United States…,” prosecutors said in a request for a warrant, according to the Orlando Sentinel, on Jan. 8. “Patel was in possession of a passport… that appeared to be issued by the Government of India.”

Patel, who was indicted in 2015, was in custody as of Jan. 8 while U.S. District Judge Charles P. Kocoras revoked his long-standing bond. Patel had been helping authorities recover the money since he was initially arrested in September 2014 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

He had pleaded not guilty in 2015. In December 2016, he changed his plea to guilty. He had sold 26 fake loans to a Milwaukee financial firm, Pennant Management, totaling about $179 million. He had falsely said that the loans were guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Patel was the Chief Executive Officer of First Farmers Financial LL, which sold the fake loans.

About $100 million was recovered by selling his hotels, cars and other property. He had used the money to buy a multi-million dollar home and several hotels. Despite his cooperation with the authorities, the damage done by him was severe enough that Pennant Management had to close down. Patel’s wife, Trisha Patel, was facing a civil lawsuit in connection with the alleged fraud.

Another fallout of the scam was the Illinois Metropolitan Investment Fund (IMET) suing the USDA for $50 million to honor the fake loans. However, the government agency has denied responsibility.

Patel is “making tremendous efforts to make everyone whole,” Mark Nejame, Patel’s lawyer, told the Orlando Sentinel in December 2015. “His efforts, to have helped recover in excess of $100 million, is rare and substantial. Matters are complex and take time but there are many more millions that he is still helping them to recover.”

However, with his attempt to flee to Ecuador, he may be facing prison time now.

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