Hotelier Accused of $179 Million Fraud in U.S. Wanted to Buy Diamonds After Fleeing to Ecuador: Report
Nik Patel was arrested when he was trying to flee the United States on a charter flight to Ecuador last month.
Indian American hotelier Nik Patel, who pleaded guilty to $179 million fraud and tried to flee the United States earlier this year, wanted to buy diamonds using $35 million in “dirty money,” according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Patel wanted to buy one of the rarest diamonds to launder the money through bank accounts in Dubai, according to a new FBI report. He was indicted in 2015 for the fraud and had been helping investigators recover the money since then. According to a report in Orlando Sentinel, Patel used the cooperation with the investigators as a shield to launder $35 million he had stolen.
He reportedly also wanted to seek help from lawyers and consultants from around the world. The FBI caught Patel with a blueprint of this plan that also said that buying diamonds was the easiest way to launder money, the publication added.
The documents also listed luxury cars valued at $500,000 in Ecuador, a bag of some kind of white powder seized at the airport, luxury watches, $20,000 in cash, and eight cellphones at his home.
“This is the cleanest way to do the transaction, kill any trace, and cover everyone,” said the outline that the investigators attribute to Patel. “Legit stones are being bought, and the ‘trace’ ends there. Francesca did nothing wrong by buying the stone for the ‘client’ and neither did the person selling the stone.”
Patel was arrested on Jan. 6 from Kissimmee Gateway Airport in Kissimmee, Florida. He was going to board a flight to Ecuador with an Indian passport. He had also made plans for his wife, Trisha, to flee the country a day after he did.
Patel said that he was at the airport with Orlando businessman Kevin Timirchand and that both of them were planning to start a business in Ecuador. Timirchand allegedly hired the chartered plane that was going to take them to Ecuador. An American Ecuadoran attorney Estaban River is said to have helped Patel get asylum paperwork done.
Patel’s company, First Farmers Financial LLC, 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.
He had been out on bonded release since his initial arrest. He will be getting a sentence for the original fraud and attempt to flee on March 5.