Orlando businessman Nikesh A. Patel has been arrested by federal authorities on fraud charges.
Authorities say Patel fraudulently sold $150 million in loans to an unidentified Milwaukee company. The FBI alleges he sold the loans as being guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture when they were not.
An order releasing Patel on $100,000 bond was signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge David Baker in Orlando on Sept. 30.
An affidavit from the FBI attached to Patel’s arrest warrant states: “Patel sold approximately 25 loans to Company A on false pretenses … Patel submitted among other things fabricated loan guarantee forms falsely reflecting that the USDA guaranteed a portion of the loan’s principal amount.”
Patel's attorney, Mark NeJame, said Patel denies the allegations at this time. "There’s a lot of confusion that surrounds the allegations and we are working to sort things out," NeJame said. "I’m optimistic that once everything comes to bear, that all of this will be resolved in a very positive way. He’s not been indicted, and these are merely allegations."
Patel, 30, is known as the founder and CEO of Orlando-based First Farmers Financial and had recently launched a hotel redevelopment company, Alena Hospitality.
The hotel company recently opened a Doubletree by Hilton at University of Central Florida and has been renovating the former Marriott hotel in downtown Orlando near the Bob Carr Performing Arts Center.
Patel paid $14 million for the downtown hotel, which was slated to become the Renaissance Orlando with another $17 million renovation.
The Sentinel had reported on Patel’s downtown hotel project in July. Patel’s company website had listed him as a graduate of University of Central Florida, but the university had no record of his graduation there. When confronted about it, Patel told a Sentinel reporter that he didn’t write his corporate biographies and that he would change it. The biography was later changed to say he had attended classes at UCF.
Patel is a former bank executive for Fifth Third Bank, Beach Business Bank and Comerica Bank. He has also been involved in restaurant businesses including part ownership of downtown Orlando's Mingos.
The First Farmers Financial website says Patel is a "seasoned banker with more than seven years of his career having been focused on government-guaranteed lending under the Small Business Administration program as well as the Business & Industry program within the USDA."
Source: Orlando Sentinel