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News » US » Guilty plea entered over bribes and kick-backs on energy contracts » published 7 Aug 2018

Guilty plea entered over bribes and kick-backs on energy contracts

A Florida man has pleaded guilty to accepting US$2.5m in bribes and kickbacks in connection with federal contracts.

The Office of the United States Attorney (OUSA) for the District of Vermont announced that Bhaskar Patel, 67, of Windermere, Florida, appeared yesterday (6 August) in the federal district court in Rutland to answer charges. The charges were that, while employed by Schneider Electric Building Americas, he unlawfully solicited and accepted US$2,536,119.19 in bribes and kickbacks associated with federal energy savings performance contracts (ESPCs) issued to Schneider Electric by various federal agencies.  Patel has been ordered to return to the US District Court on 7 December for sentencing.

According to court documents, law enforcement initially received information that Patel had altered and falsified a bid document submitted to Schneider Electric by a Vermont subcontractor.  Patel selected a different subcontractor to work on Schneider’s project, and – in order to cover his tracks – falsified the losing local bid.  From there, investigators uncovered a wide-ranging scheme to defraud the federal government, whereby Patel received in excess of US$2.5m in exchange for awarding a piece of Schneider Electric’s federal contracts to subcontractors who agreed to pay bribes and kickbacks for the work. Patel directed the subcontractors to pay him by check, often diverting funds through his adult son and daughter, and insisting on a bogus reference notation.

For each contract named in the Information, Patel, a senior project manager, was authorized and directed by Schneider Electric to obtain bids from subcontractors and recommend for selection the subcontractors that would be awarded a contract under an ESPC.

The OUSA said that  Patel accepted illegal kickbacks and bribes in connection with a US$70m project for the United States Coast Guard in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico; a US$24.7m project for the United States Department of Agriculture in Albany, California; a US$12.6m project for the United States General Services Administration (GSA) in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands; a US$21.8m project for GSA in San Juan, Puerto Rico and St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; a proposed project of US$42.4m for work on the Veterans Affairs medical centers in Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Maine; and a US$114.3m project for the US Navy for work on the Naval base in Coronado, California.

Patel pleaded guilty to one count of accepting illegal kickbacks in connection with federal contracts, a violation of 41 USC §§ 8702 and 8707, and one count of accepting bribes in connection with federal contracts, a violation of 18 USC § 666.  He faces up to 10 years of imprisonment, followed by up to three years of supervised release, on each of the counts of conviction.  Patel further faces a fine of up to US$5,072,238.38, or twice his ill-gotten gains.  The actual sentence, however, will be determined by the Court with guidance from the advisory Federal Sentencing Guidelines.  The government also filed a Notice of Forfeiture in the amount of US$2,536,119.19, which Patel agreed to as part of his guilty plea.  As part of his negotiated plea with the government, the government agreed to reduce the forfeiture from $2.5 million to $1.75 million if Patel pays $950,000 in forfeiture on or before his sentencing date.

“Patel’s crime involved a sweeping fraud that harmed many federal agencies and the American citizens and government employees who depend upon them,” said United States Attorney Christina Nolan.  “The US Attorney’s Office is committed to continuing to collaborate with our law enforcement partners in all agencies to combat large-scale financial fraud and guard against misuse, diversion, and theft of taxpayer dollars.”

VA-OIG special agent-in-charge Sean J Smith said: “Federal energy savings performance contracts are intended to save VA money.  Bribery and other corrupt acts by contractors instead divert and waste precious dollars intended for our nation’s veterans.”


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This article was published on 7 Aug 2018 (last updated on 7 Aug 2018).

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