Business owner sentenced for fraudulently obtaining more than $2.6 million in government contracts

GREENBELT, Md. -- U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow sentenced Yogesh K. Patel, 48, of Gaithersburg, Md., Monday to 21 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for conspiring to commit wire fraud in connection with a scheme to fraudulently obtain more than $2.6 million in federal government contracts through a Small Business Administration (SBA) program designed to assist disadvantaged businesses. Judge Chasanow also entered an order that Patel forfeit $554,541.07.

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Small Business Administration Inspector General Peggy E. Gustafson; Brigadier General Keith M. Givens, Commander Air Force Office of Special Investigations; and, Mary L. Kendall, Deputy Inspector General, Department of the Interior.

According to his plea agreement and court documents, Patel owned 91 percent of United Native Technologies, Inc. (UNTI), which purported to perform information technology services to the government and commercial clients. In 2005, Patel applied for and was granted certification as a socially and economically disadvantaged owned business under SBA's program. In addition to a broad scope of assistance from SBA, participants in the program can receive sole-source government contracts that are reserved for socially disadvantaged owned companies.

In 2007, Patel met co-defendant Wesley Burnett at a business conference in Costa Rica. Burnett, who was not a member of any economically or socially disadvantaged group, had experience constructing and maintaining barriers at military and government installations. Patel and Burnett agreed that they would use UNTI to bid on SBA set aside contracts for barrier-related work. Burnett would perform the work under the contracts and would pay Patel 4.5 percent of the value of the contracts. In preparing a bid for a contact at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., which was ultimately awarded to UNTI, Burnett and Patel exchanged emails in June 2011 in which they made statements indicating that they knew this arrangement was illegal.

In 2011, Patel met N.P. They agreed to a fraudulent pass-thru arrangement similar to the one Patel had entered into with Burnett.

From October 2010 to July 2013, UNTI was fraudulently awarded $2,682,430 in set-aside U.S. government contracts.

In 2011, 2012 and 2013, Patel falsely certified to the SBA that no outside entity or individual provided financial support to UNTI when in fact Burnett and N.P. provided financial support to UNTI; and that Patel ran UNTI full-time, when in fact he did not because he was receiving disability compensation from the Social Security Administration in each of those years.

From November 2012 to October 2013, Patel received $973,407.37 in government funds under the fraudulently obtained set-aside contracts. Patel kept a portion of these funds and turned the majority of them over to Burnett. Prior to November 2012, payments under contracts went to Burnett, who provided a portion of the funds to Patel.

Wesley Burnett, 46, of Hermosa Beach, Calif., previously pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme. Burnett was sentenced to 42 months in prison and ordered to forfeit $694,893.99.

The National Procurement Fraud Task Force was formed in October 2006 to promote the early detection, identification, prevention and prosecution of procurement fraud associated with the increase in government contracting activity for national security and other government programs. The Procurement Fraud Task Force includes the United States Attorneys' Offices, the FBI, the U.S. Inspectors General community and a number of other federal law-enforcement agencies. This case, as well as other cases brought by members of the Task Force, demonstrates the Department of Justice's commitment to helping ensure the integrity of the government procurement process.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the SBA OIG, U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and the Department of the Interior, OIG for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorneys Leo J. Wise and Sean R. Delaney, who prosecuted the case.

Editor's note: The case was investigated on behalf of AFOSI and the Air Force by Special Agent Derrell Freeman, Procurement Fraud Detachment 5, Operating Location B, Eglin AFB, Fla. SA Derrell Freeman is now a Procurement Fraud "Ace," with five or more fraud investigation "shoot downs." A "PF Shoot Down" is a criminal indictment, conviction or recovery (criminal or civil) amounting to more than $1 million.