A husband and father of two is working to clear his name after he was erroneously arrested as part of the ongoing investigation into a widespread sex trafficking ring at several massage parlors in South Florida.
Law enforcement officials in Martin, Palm Beach, and Indian River counties last month raided several spas where they said men paid for sex acts. More than 60 men have been arrested in connection with the Martin County cases, while more than 130 have been taken into custody in the Indian River County cases. Patriots owner Robert Kraft is the most high-profile person who's been arrested. He maintains he's innocent.
And among those arrested in Martin County was Sandipkumar Patel -- who last week was cleared of any wrongdoing.
The 47-year-old Patel, of Jensen Beach, was arrested Feb. 25 and wrongly accused of soliciting sex at Florida Therapy Spa in Stuart on Nov. 19. Investigators initially connected him to the case via a blue, four-door Porsche that was parked near the spa, TCPalm reported.
However, Patel, who came to the United States in 1999 and is a naturalized citizen, does not own a Porsche.
“Shame and dishonor not only fell upon me but upon my family and our family name,” Patel said during a news conference where he announced he plans to sue the sheriff’s office, according to TCPalm.
The Martin County Sheriff’s Office last week revealed Patel was, in fact, innocent and had been misidentified. Authorities said the blue Porsche actually belonged to a woman with the same last name and was also co-registered to a man not named Patel.
Martin Sheriff’s Lt. Mike Dougherty told TCPalm the confusion began when they researched the four-door Porsche in which the man who received the sex services left. He said the male co-registrant was not the man in the video inside the spa, so officers kept looking.
While searching driver's license photos of men named Patel in Martin County, investigators found Sandipkumar Patel. They said his license photo matched the look of a man seen on video the police had shot at the spa.
“It wasn’t him that was in the Porsche,” Dougherty said. “It was somebody else.”
Charges against Patel were dropped in court papers filed Friday.
“Imagine talking to your mother and father, trying to explain you are innocent,” Patel said Tuesday. “Imagine what your two little girls must be thinking and wondering. Imagine what they may be exposed to at school with their friends.”
He continued: “Imagine what your wife must be feeling as she has to take the kids to school and see other parents who she may come in contact with. Imagine having to work seeing regular customers on a regular basis who I’ve become friends with and look forward to seeing. Imagine thinking about killing yourself. This did not have to happen.”
Sonar Patel, who has been married to her husband for 20 years, said it’s a gross understatement to say Martin Sheriff William Snyder owes her husband and their family an apology.
“You and your deputy brought my world to an end,” she said. “His face was plastered all over the internet for the world to see. My husband’s only crime was being a Patel.”
The Patel’s attorney, David Golden, said Tuesday they are planning to sue the Martin Sheriff’s Office seeking compensation. He accused the agency of being “willing to sacrifice proper investigative work and our civil liberties for yet another arrest.”
In a statement to CBS12, Snyder said that once it was discovered that Sandipkumar Patel was not the man seen going to the spa, they notified the media and began “the process of expunging his misdemeanor arrest record.”
“Because Mr. Patel has obtained an attorney and announced his intentions to sue the Martin County Sheriff’s Office, we must limit further public comment,” the statement said.