A Florida businessman who attempted to flee to Ecuador after pleading guilty to a $179 million fraud scheme was sentenced to 25 years in prison Tuesday.
In a Chicago courtroom, U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras called convicted conman Nikesh Patel, 34, a "diabolical genius" for the scale and brazenness of the fraud he perpetrated.
The judge said Patel’s scam was the largest fraud case he had overseen in nearly four decades. He was impressed by the boldness of the fraud that involved numerous fake documents, lies and other moving parts that “most mere mortals” could not even think of, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“There’s a certain diabolical genius to what he did here,” Kocoras said Tuesday.
"There’s a certain diabolical genius to what he did here."
The businessman pleaded guilty in 2016 to selling sham loans to a Wisconsin investment firm and consequently financially damaging several Chicago-area school districts and hundreds of small banks.
In a bid to reduce the possible amount of prison time, Patel convinced the judge last year to allow him to remain free on bond while he awaits sentencing and cooperate with authorities to recover money for the victims of his crimes.
But despite the generosity of the court, Patel used his freedom to plan his escape and even launched new scams that involved him masquerading as a bank executive to con millions of dollars more through shoddy loans.
Prosecutors said Patel spent the new tainted money on lavish celebrations, including a $30,000 party at a luxurious Four Seasons Hotel for his infant daughter's birthday and $28,000 on a ski trip.
Knowing what was coming for him, on the day he was to be sentenced in January, Patel tried to pull off an even greater scam. He was arrested at a Florida airport trying to board a jet to Ecuador, where he planned to seek political asylum and set up a new luxurious life for himself and his family, the Tribune reported.
FBI agents, according to court records, found documents after the arrest that detailed Patel’s plans to start over in the South American country, including buying luxury vehicles, a $1 million home in Ecuador, a private chef and an English-language school for his four daughters.
Patel speculated in one acquired document that if he fled the U.S. by a private plane, authorities would have no way to stop him. He planned to tell his attorney and federal prosecutors that he was going to “rehab or a meditation camp for a week, this way they do not suspect anything by my phone being shut off.”
“I may even use a different name to leave,” Patel added, according to the Tribune. “The only people I have to tell is the pilot so he can document his flight log.”
"The only people I have to tell is the pilot so he can document his flight log."
The judge slammed Patel for his attempted escape from the U.S., calling it “insulting” and saying that he “turned his back” on his native country by requesting the asylum because he did not want to face responsibility for his crimes.
“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.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.