US contract worker to admit taking $2.5M in kickbacks

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A former project manager for a company that has done tens of millions of dollars in energy efficiency work for a number of U.S. government agencies agreed to plead guilty to charges he took more than $2.5 million in kickbacks from subcontractors across the country and in the Caribbean, court documents say.

Bhaskar Patel is facing up to 10 years in prison for violating a law against taking kickbacks and bribes involving federal programs, according to filings in U.S. District Court in Vermont. The plea agreement also calls for Patel to make cash restitution and by liquidating some of his assets.

Patel, 67, of Windermere, Fla., is due to appear in U.S. District Court in Rutland on Aug. 6. Patel's attorney declined to comment.

"We may have more to say later," David Haas, of Orlando, Florida, said Friday.

The Vermont office of the United States Attorney declined to comment on the case.

Between 2011 and 2016, Patel "directed subcontractors to transfer money to him, either directly or indirectly," court documents said.

The document, filed July 19, lists more than 60 payments to Patel and two of his children. The payments ranged from a low of just over $6,200 to almost $137,000.

The documents do not name the subcontractors alleged to have paid the kickbacks.

Patel was a contract manager for Schneider Electric Buildings America, Inc., which negotiated subcontracts for energy efficiency projects at the U.S. government facilities. On its website, the company describes itself "as leading the digital transformation of energy management and automation."

"Mr. Patel is no longer an employee of the company," said David Smith, a spokesman for Schneider based in Andover, Mass. "He was terminated immediately once the company learned of his actions."

Smith also said the company, which a federal government contract database showed apparently did more than $220 million in business with the U.S. government between 2009 and earlier this month, was working with federal prosecutors.

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