Former MTA Manager Pleads Guilty to Bid Rigging, Fraud
According to a release issued by the United States Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York, former Metropolitan Transportation Authority Manger, Paresh Patel, has pleaded guilty of obstructing a federal investigation into bid rigging and fraud in connection with contracts awarded by the MTA for Superstorm Sandy-related subway repairs.
The announcement was made before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ona T. Wang by 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; and Carolyn Pokorny, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Inspector General for the State of New York.
In following the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, in 2013 the MTA awarded construction management contracts for managers to oversee various subway projects. In rules established by the MTA, as a program manager, Patel wasn’t permitted to participate in the selection, award or administration of contracts as to avoid conflicts of interest.
However, in June 2014, Patel and another unnamed MTA employee created an engineering consulting firm under their childrens’ named and called it Satkirti Consulting Engineering LLC. After creating the firm, Patel then transferred the ownership to another friend who played a non-substantive role in the management of the company.
In February 2015, Satkirti was awarded a contract as a subcontractor on the Joralemon Tube subway rehabilitation project—a project that Patel would oversee as program manager.
Authorities report that while the technical employees of Satkirti were Patel’s friends and carried out the subcontract, they had no engineering or qualifying backgrounds. One individual was reportedly recruited from a pizzeria that Patel also owned.
The report goes on to state that Patel directed the operations of Satkirti, created a company email, instructed employees about what kinds of content to communicate through the email and on multiple occasions, instructed employees not to mention his name as to conceal his involvement.
The following year, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Inspector General for the State of New York launched an investigation into the contract awarded to Satkirti and was later joined by the New York Regional Investigations Office of the United States Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General.
During the investigation period, authorities report that they served various subpoenas and while conducting interviews with individuals involved with Satkirti, received false statements. During this time, Patel was also reported to have instructed an employee to delete all of their corresponding personal emails with him.
Over the course of the investigation, it was discovered that multiple individuals had been asked to conceal and lie about Patel’s involvement with the firm.
Following the issue of grand jury subpoenas by investigators in November, Patel then completely deleted the Satkirti company email account, which contained records of the company’s business and evidence connecting Patel to Satkirti.
On a date to be determined, U.S. District Judge Kimba M. Wood plans to sentence Patel for his plea consisting of one count of obstruction of justice. The count is reported to carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, which has been prescribed by Congress.
“It is simply unacceptable for an MTA employee to obstruct any investigation—let alone a criminal investigation,” said Pokorny.
“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.”
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.