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Diabolical genius' given 25 years in prison for carrying out massive fraud, trying to flee to Ecuador

  ikesh Patel was supposed to be living with his parents and helping authorities recover money for victims while he awaited sentencing for a massive $179 million real estate fraud. Instead, the smooth-talking Florida native was still on the take, posing as a bank executive to rip off millions more through sham loans, then blowing the money on lavish ski trips, a pricey Orlando, Fla., home, even a $30,000 birthday bash at a Four Seasons hotel for his 1-year-old daughter, federal prosecutors alleged. But he saved his biggest scam for last. On the day he was to be sentenced in January, Patel was arrested at a Florida airport trying to board a private jet to Ecuador, where prosecutors say he sought political asylum and planned to set up an extravagant new life for himself and his family. It all came to a crashing end Tuesday in a federal courtroom in Chicago as Patel was sentenced to 25 years in prison for one of the most brazen swindles in recent memory, a scam that stretched from Orlando to Milwaukee and damaged hundreds of small banks and municipal investment portfolios in its wake. In handing down the stiff punishment, U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras said it was the largest financial fraud case he’d overseen in nearly four decades on the bench. The judge marveled at the brazenness of a scheme that involved so many lies, phony documents and other moving parts that “most mere mortals” would never even conceive of attempting it. “There’s a certain diabolical genius to what he did here,” Kocoras said. The judge also blasted Patel for his botched plot to escape to Ecuador, saying he “turned his back” on the United States by requesting political asylum there just because he didn’t want to own up to his mistakes. “It’s a little insulting,” Kocoras said. “His (U.S.) citizenship was the gift of his birth, yet he’s so quick to throw it away because he doesn’t want to face the piper.” Patel, 34, of Windermere, Fla., admitted in 2016 in a plea agreement with prosecutors that as CEO of the Florida-based First Farmers Financial LLC he orchestrated the sale of 26 sham loans to Milwaukee investment firm Pennant Management for $179 million. As part of the scheme, Patel submitted false documents to Pennant showing a portion of the loans were guaranteed by the federal government under a program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In fact, all 26 loans were fabricated and had no actual borrower, no pre-existing loan and no government guarantee, according to Patel’s plea. Patel used the cash to fund ill-fated hotel projects in Illinois and Florida as well as his own lifestyle, according to prosecutors. He owned a Rolls Royce, a Lamborghini and other luxury vehicles, wore custom suits and jewelry, and jetted all over the world, including multiple trips to Panama, where he “blew off steam” and visited brothels, prosecutors said in a recent court filing. The fraud had a ripple effect in Illinois. The Illinois Metropolitan Investment Fund, or IMET, a west suburban investment fund popular with local governments and school and park districts, lost more than $50 million in funds it had invested with Pennant.
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