Fraud Case Tied to VA In WRJ

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 7/26/2018 11:51:50 PM
Modified: 7/26/2018 11:51:57 PM

Rutland — A former energy company manager from Florida took more than $2.5 million in kickbacks and bribes for construction work on federal facilities, including the Veterans Administration Medical Center in White River Junction, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Vermont.

Bhaskar Patel, who is from the Orlando area, has agreed to plead guilty in U.S. District Court in Rutland to charges of violating both the federal Anti-Kickback Act and for accepting bribes for a program receiving federal funds between June 2011 and April 2016, according to a signed plea agreement filed in federal court.

Patel, 67, had some checks for the various kickbacks and bribes in multiple states and U.S. territories made out to him, while in other cases he had payments made to two of his children, identified as a son, “J.P.,” and a daughter, “F.P.,” the federal charges assert.

Schneider Electric Buildings America Inc., a Texas-based company, hired Patel as a senior project manager in June 2010 and authorized him to negotiate contracts between the company and subcontractors working on federal facilities, court records show.

“In total, Bhaskar Patel collected approximately $2,536,119.19 in illegal kickbacks and bribes from subcontractors who hoped to and did contract with Schneider Electric in connection with federal (energy savings performance contracts),” the criminal charges state.

Schneider submitted a proposal in November 2015 for energy savings work involving VA facilities in White River Junction, Bedford, Mass., Providence, R.I., and Togus, Maine. It had “an implantation cost” of $23.7 million, financed over a period of 21 years, for a total proposed contract price of $42.5 million, according to court documents.

Prosecutors claim that six weeks later, Schneider submitted “a falsified, forged and altered bid document” allegedly from a Vermont subcontractor, who was not identified in court papers. As part of the scheme, Patel created the false document in an effort to “justify his and Schneider Electric’s improper selection” of another subcontractor for the White River Junction facility, court documents said.

The contracts were spread across the country from Maine to California and into the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, according to a 16-page document outlining the charges filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Abigail E. Averbach. The criminal case focuses on contractors that managed large-scale energy savings performance contracts, which allow federal agencies to procure energy savings and facility improvements with no up-front capital costs or special appropriations from Congress, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Among the buildings mentioned in the charges is a U.S. Coast Guard facility, federal building and courthouse in Puerto Rico; the U.S. Department of Agriculture Research Service in Albany, Calif.; and a federal courthouse and federal building in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Also mentioned is a $114.3 million contract with the U.S. Navy in February 2016, but court documents do not give an address, except that one subcontractor was from Texas.

The paperwork also notes just one subcontractor from South Carolina paid $215,000 to “J.P.” between July 3, 2013, and Aug. 2, 2014. The charge also notes that “J.P.” made transfers of $382,000 from his Chase Bank account to his father’s Chase Bank account between May 12, 2014, and Dec. 8, 2014.

Patel is due to formally enter his two guilty pleas on Aug. 6 in Rutland, his defense lawyer, David Haas, of Orlando, Fla., told the Valley News. He said the court paperwork speaks for itself.

Attempts to get a comment from Schneider by phone and email were unsuccessful.

Patel faces up to 10 years in each count and up to three years supervised released for each. He also faces a fine of up to $5.1 million on each count — double the amount of the money allegedly taken.

Patel has agreed to liquidate property that he owns to help pay back the government. The government has agreed to cut the $2.5 million loss to $1.75 million if he makes an accelerated payment. He must pay $450,000 no later than Oct. 1 and another $500,000 by the time of sentencing.

The government also is seeking forfeiture of some property accumulated by Patel. That includes money, investments, shares of stocks and securities, a retirement account, property in Windermere, Fla., a 2012 Mercedes-Benz and contents of a safe deposit box.

Mike Donoghue can be reached at

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