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West Orange Times & Observer Monday, Oct. 20, 2014 6 years ago

Two Ocoee men indicted in contract fraud and kickback scheme

by: Zak Kerr Staff Writer/Reporter

According to a federal release, a federal grand jury has indicted Rudy Rampertab, 45, and Suraj Patel, 34, of Ocoee, on charges of connections with a $3.5 million shipping and packaging contract fraud scheme.

Carter M. Stewart, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio; Kathy Enstrom, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS); and Kevin Cornelius, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), announced the charges Friday, Oct. 17.

The charges against Rampertab and Patel are one count each of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services fraud, 10 counts each of mail fraud and honest services fraud, 10 counts each of mail fraud, one count each of money laundering and one count each of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

According to the indictment, between 1988 and January 2011, Rampertab was an employee of a business that had offices in Cincinnati, Ohio. This business processed requests for the payment of invoices and mailed checks to vendors to pay for services rendered. Beginning around 2000, Rampertab managed this business's distribution center in Carson, California. Rampertab supervised the movement of the company’s merchandise to distribution centers throughout the country.

From about July 2010 to January 2011, Rampertab and Patel conspired to divert the shipping and packaging business to companies established by Patel, and part of the profits was paid to Rampertab in the form of kickbacks, according to the charges.

Patel established several companies, by the names of SAP Retail Transportation, Cost Plus Packaging and Keshav Logistics. According to the indictment, Rampertab obtained approval for Patel’s companies to become third-party vendors without disclosing his financial interest in or personal connection to Patel’s companies. Rampertab reassigned the transportation contracts from established vendors to Patel’s companies. Rampertab also established a different process for Patel’s companies so that he could personally approve the invoices, according to the indictment.

The indictment says Patel’s companies improperly billed the business for services that were not rendered or double-billed the business. In addition, Rampertab and Patel conspired to have Patel’s companies sell large amounts of unnecessary packaging to the business, for which Rampertab approved the invoices, according to the charges.

According to the indictment, between July 2010 and January 2011, Patel’s companies received more than $3.5 million in shipping and packaging contracts from the business. After paying expenses, Patel’s companies generated approximately $1.4 million in net income.

The accusations state Patel’s companies paid kickbacks to Rampertab in the form of payments made in the amount of $126,000 to relatives of Rampertab; a $13,000 cashier's check paid to Rampertab; payments of more than $466,000 to Rampertab’s personal American Express accounts; and Rampertab’s cell phone.

In addition, Patel and Rampertab were charged with using the profits from this scheme and Patel’s companies to purchase real estate and vehicles in their names. Patel used the proceeds of the scheme to purchase a 2010 Aston Martin for $199,000 and sold it for $150,000. The $150,000 proceeds were then deposited into a bank account established in Patel’s name, and Rampertab was listed as the account beneficiary. Patel and Rampertab used $53,071.13 from that account to purchase property in Orlando that was titled in both of their names. Also, Patel and Rampertab allegedly used one of Patel’s companies to trade-in Rampertab’s Lexus in order to purchase a BMW. The BMW was purchased with a $61,000 check that was written on one of Patel’s company’s bank accounts.

Conspiracy to commit money laundering, mail fraud, and honest services fraud are all punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Money laundering is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

The indictment also contains a forfeiture allegation relative to the forfeiture of jewelry, art and six real properties.

"The IRS, along with our law enforcement partners, will vigorously pursue individuals that misuse their positions of trust and use kickback schemes to further their criminal activities," Enstrom said.

Stewart acknowledged the investigation by special agents of the IRS and the FBI, as well as Assistant United States Attorney Timothy S. Mangan, who is representing the United States in this case.

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