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East Indian Pleads Guilty To Taking $2.5 Million in Kickbacks In Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico

RUTLAND, Vermont — A Florida man who worked as a project manager for a company that has done more than $200 million of dollars in energy efficiency work for the U.S. government pleaded guilty Monday to charges he took more than $2.5 million in kickbacks and bribes over a five-year period from subcontractors he was overseeing.

Bhaskar Patel of Windermere, Florida, entered the plea during a hearing in federal court in Rutland.

Patel is facing up to 10 years in prison for violating a law against taking kickbacks and bribes involving federal programs. The plea agreement also calls for the 67-year-old Patel to make cash restitution and liquidate some of his assets.

Sentencing is tentatively scheduled for December.

“Patel’s crime involved a sweeping fraud that harmed many federal agencies and the American citizens and government employees who depend upon them,” Vermont‘s United States Attorney Christina Nolan said in a statement issued after the court appearance.

During the hearing, Patel, who was released pending sentencing, answered a series of questions from U.S. District Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford, most by saying “yes, your honor.”

Patel’s attorney, David Haas, declined to comment on the case on Monday, but said he may have something to say at sentencing.

Patel was a contract manager for Schneider Electric Buildings America Inc., which according to prosecutors “has enormous federal contracts.” Patel negotiated subcontracts for energy efficiency projects at the U.S. government facilities.

Schneider describes itself as “leading the digital transformation of energy management and automation.” On Monday, Schneider spokesman David Smith said the company was aware of Patel’s guilty plea and would continue to cooperate fully with prosecutors.

Prosecutors said Patel accepted the illegal kickbacks and bribes in connection with a $70 million project for the United States Coast Guard in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico; a $24.7 million project for the United States Department of Agriculture in Albany, California; a $12.6 million project for the United States General Services Administration in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands; a $21.8 million project for GSA in San Juan, Puerto Rico and St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; and a proposed project for work at the Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers in Vermont, MassachusettsRhode Island and Maine.

The illegal activity was uncovered after investigators became aware that Patel had falsified a bid document submitted to Schneider by a Vermont subcontractor who was bidding for work at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in White River Junction.

“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,” said a press release.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

1 Comment

  1. Peter
    June 30, 2019 at 2:49 PM — Reply

    Why the headline “East Indian Man”. The article text says “Floria man” which is quite sufficient. You might as well have said “brown skinned man”. I see racism is alive and well in journalism.

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