Former MTA supervisor pleads guilty to obstruction over Hurricane Sandy fraud

Paresh Patel, a former manager for the MTA, the corporation that runs New York’s public transport systems, has pleaded guilty to obstructing an investigation into bid-rigging and fraud over MTA repair contracts in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

After the 2012 storm, Patel, 59, set up Satkirti Consulting Engineering with a colleague in the name of their children, and used it to bid for repair contracts despite MTA rules that forbid such conflicts of interest.

When he realised the MTA’s Inspector General was looking at contract awards, Patel deleted an incriminating email account and encouraged others to destroy evidence and lie to investigators.

In February 2015, Satkirti won a subcontracting role for a rebuilding project at Joralemon Tube subway station, which Patel then oversaw in his MTA role, while also acting as Satkirti’s unofficial director of operations. The contract, which was worth $1m, was terminated by the MTA after only $91,883 had been spent because the company failed to complete paperwork.

Satkirti’s employees included a friend and co-founder who did not have any engineering qualifications, and another who was recruited from a pizzeria also owned by Patel.

Patel, who had worked with MTA since 1987, faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for obstruction of justice. No date has yet been set for sentencing.

Douglas Shoemaker, special agent in charge of the case, commented: "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."

Geoffrey Berman, US attorney, 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.

"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."

Image ©GCR, illustration by Denis Carrier

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