Former MTA Supervisor Pleads Guilty To Obstructing Investigation Into Bid Rigging And Fraud
Paresh Patel, a Former Manager at the MTA Responsible for Oversight of Subway Repair Contracts Following Superstorm Sandy, Deleted Emails and Persuaded Witnesses to Lie
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Douglas Shoemaker, the Special Agent in Charge of the New York Regional Investigations Office of the United States Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General (“DOT-OIG”), and Carolyn Pokorny, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Inspector General for the State of New York (“MTA-OIG”), announced that PARESH PATEL, a former MTA manager, pled guilty today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ona T. Wang to obstructing a federal investigation into bid rigging and fraud in connection with contracts awarded by the MTA for Superstorm Sandy-related subway repairs. PATEL, who set up a private company that participated in a bid for a project that he would oversee at the MTA, took numerous steps upon learning that his conduct was being investigated, including deleting an email account, asking others to destroy evidence, and encouraging others to lie to authorities to obstruct the investigation. PATEL previously surrendered to federal authorities on February 18, 2020.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, Paresh Patel set up a company so that he and his family could profit from the work that was being done to repair our subways. When Patel learned he was under investigation, he destroyed evidence and asked others to lie to federal and local investigators. Efforts to obstruct investigations into corruption at the MTA undermine the public’s faith in the nation’s largest public transportation system and threaten the ability of our Government to ensure that justice is done.”
DOT-OIG Special Agent in Charge Douglas Shoemaker said: “The devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy is only exacerbated by the unscrupulous actions of Mr. Patel, who was entrusted with aiding in the restoration of the New York region’s transit infrastructure. Working with our law enforcement and prosecutorial partners, we will continue to protect the taxpayers’ investment in our nation’s infrastructure and pursue those who participate in fraud schemes that undermine DOT-funded programs and projects, and the public trust.”
MTA Inspector General Carolyn Pokorny said: “It is simply unacceptable for an MTA employee to obstruct any investigation - let alone a criminal investigation. We are proud that our initial probe has resulted in derailing this scheme to defraud riders, taxpayers, and other stakeholders of our great transportation system, and thankful to our law enforcement partners who worked with us to leave no doubt that obstructing a federal investigation is a crime.”
According to the allegations made in the Information to which the defendant pled guilty, as well as the defendant’s admissions in court:
In order to manage necessary subway rehabilitation work following Superstorm Sandy in 2013, the MTA awarded construction management contracts for managers to oversee post-Sandy subway projects. To prevent self-dealing and the appearance of corruption, the MTA maintains rules relating to conflicts of interest. The rules provide that MTA employees are barred from participating in the selection, award, or administration of a contract if the employee, his or her family member, or an organization that employs the employee or one of the employee’s family members has a financial interest in any of the companies that propose or bid on, or are awarded, such a contract.
PATEL was a program manager at the MTA and was responsible for awarding contracts and exercising oversight of Superstorm Sandy-related subway repairs. In June 2014, PATEL and another MTA employee set up an engineering consulting firm named Satkirti Consulting Engineering LLC (“Satkirti”). Because MTA rules prohibited them from having an interest in such a company, PATEL and the other employee registered Satkirti in the names of their children, and then transferred the ownership to a friend of PATEL who played no substantive role in the management of Satkirti. In February 2015, Satkirti was awarded a contract as a subcontractor on the Joralemon Tube subway rehabilitation project, which project PATEL would oversee in his role at the MTA. Although the technical employees of Satkirti who sought and carried out the subcontract were PATEL’s friend, who had no background or qualifications in engineering, and a second individual who PATEL recruited from a pizzeria owned by PATEL, PATEL directed the operations of Satkirti and its employees while concealing his involvement with the company. Among other things, PATEL created a company email account for Satkirti, and instructed Satkirti’s employees about what to write in emails. On many occasions, PATEL instructed Satkirti’s employees not to mention PATEL’s name and reminded them that PATEL was not supposed to be involved in the operation of Satkirti.
In the spring of 2016, MTA-OIG launched an investigation, later joined by the DOT-OIG and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, into the contract that was awarded to Satkirti. MTA-OIG served subpoenas and conducted interviews with individuals involved in Satkirti, many of whom made false statements about their and PATEL’s involvement in the company. After MTA-OIG began serving subpoenas, PATEL told one of Satkirti’s employees to delete from his personal email account all emails with PATEL. On November 16, 2016, after federal investigators began serving grand jury subpoenas, PATEL deleted the Satkirti company email account, which contained records of Satkirti’s business and evidence that would have connected PATEL to Satkirti. Over the course of the MTA-OIG and federal investigation, at the request of PATEL, several individuals questioned by investigators also concealed and lied about PATEL’s involvement in Satkirti.
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PARESH PATEL, 59, of Paramus, New Jersey, pled guilty to one count of obstruction of justice, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
PATEL will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kimba M. Wood on a date to be determined.
The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the special agents from the DOT-OIG and investigators at the MTA-OIG.
The case is being handled by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Nicolas Roos and Ryan B. Finkel are in charge of the prosecution.