Indian-origin contractor pleads guilty to taking $2.5 mn in kickbacks in US

An Indian-origin man has pleaded guilty to taking $2.5 million in bribes and kickbacks from companies seeking contracts to work on energy-saving projects in the US government buildings.

Bhaskar Patel, 67, of Windermere, Florida, received the bribes and kickbacks when he served as a senior project manager for Schneider Electric Building Americas, based in Andover, Massachusetts.

He was responsible for obtaining bids from subcontractors and recommending for selection the subcontractors that would be awarded a contract under an energy-saving project.

He pleaded guilty on Monday in federal court in Rutland to two felony charges, each carrying maximum penalties of 10 years in prison. He remains free on his personal recognizance pending a December 7 sentencing hearing.

Judge Geoffrey Crawford said federal probation officials would conduct a pre-sentence investigation before he formally hands down a sentence for Patel.

As part of a plea agreement, federal prosecutors filed a notice of forfeiture totalling $2,536,119 from Patel, VT Digger, a Vermont news portal, reported.

The plea agreement states that prosecutors have agreed to reduce the forfeiture amount to $1.75 million if Patel pays $950,000 on or before his sentencing.

He also faces fines of up to $5,072,238.38, or twice his ill-gotten gains.

Among the items federal prosecutors are seeking to seize as part of the forfeiture are his property in Windermere; a 2012 Mercedes-Benz E Class E350 vehicle; a watch; six rings; 43 earrings; 10 bracelets; 18 bangles; six pendants, USD 35,700 in Indian rupees; and a timeshare property in Hilton Head, South Carolina, the portal reported.

Assistant US Attorney Abigail Averbach, a prosecutor in the case, said charges against other individuals involved in the case are possible, though she declined to say who those people might be.

Court records do indicate that in some cases Patel directed those paying him to write checks to his adult son and daughter. His children are only identified in court papers as "JP" and "FP".

David Smith, a spokesman for Schneider Electric, said after the hearing that Patel was terminated as soon as the allegations of wrongdoing came to light.

Patel's scheme came to light when law enforcement received information that he had altered and falsified a bid document submitted to Schneider Electric by a Vermont subcontractor bidding for work on an energy savings project at the White River Junction VA facility, according to court records.