Little India: Overseas Indian, NRI, Asian Indian, Indian American

Indian-Origin Former Contractor Pleads Guilty to Taking $2.5 Million in Bribes in U.S.

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A United States-based former contractor of an energy management firm admitted to taking bribes and kickbacks worth $2.5 million on Aug. 7.

Bhaskar Patel, a resident of Windermere, Florida, pleaded guilty during a hearing at the federal court in Rutland to two felony charges. Judge Geoffrey Crawford accepted Patel’s guilty plea to both of the counts charged, and ordered him to be back in court on Dec. 7, 2018 for sentencing.

Patel faces up to 10 years in prison, followed by up to three years of supervised release, on each count of conviction. He further faces a fine of up to $5,072,238.38, or twice his ill-gotten gains, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the district of Vermont.

Patel, 67, was accused of unlawfully soliciting and accepting $2,536,119.19 in bribes and kickbacks associated with federal energy savings performance contracts issued by various federal agencies to Schneider Electric, where he was employed, the statement added. In some cases, Patel directed the subcontractors to pay him by checks written to his adult son and daughter.

The exchange of bribes took place from 2011 to 2016 while he was working as a senior project manager for the firm. The company takes contracts to work on energy saving projects in government buildings. Patel was responsible for acquiring bids from subcontractors and recommending them for the energy projects.

“Patel’s crime involved a sweeping fraud that harmed many federal agencies and the American citizens and government employees who depend upon them,” U.S. Attorney Christina E. Nolan said in a statement.

As part of the plea agreement, federal prosecutors filed a notice of forfeiture totaling $2,536,119 from Patel. The forfeiture amount can be reduced to $1.75 million if he pays $950,000 on or before his sentence starts, according to a negotiated plea with the government.

The items which prosecutors may seize as a part of the forfeiture include his property in Windermere, a 2012 Mercedes-Benz E Class E350 vehicle, a watch, six rings, 43 earrings, 10 bracelets, 18 bangles, six pendants, $ 35,700 in Indian rupees, and a timeshare property in Hilton Head, South Carolina, according to VT Digger, a Vermont news portal.

Assistant US Attorney Abigail Averbach, a prosecutor in the case, said that the charges against other people involved in the case are possible, the report said, adding that their names were not revealed.

Patel was removed from his position immediately after the allegations came to light, the publication cited David Smith, a spokesman for Schneider Electric, as saying.

According to court records, the crime was discovered when law enforcement received information that Patel had altered and falsified a bid document submitted to Schneider Electric by a Vermont subcontractor.