Rockville man pleads guilty in scheme to defraud $1.7M from Md. construction firm

A Rockville, Maryland, man pleaded guilty Thursday to a scheme to defraud the construction company he worked for of more than $1.7 million, federal prosecutors announced.

Rakesh Kaushal, 66, pleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland said in a news release Thursday.

According to the plea agreement, Kaushal conspired with the owner of another construction company to secure work as a subcontractor on projects Kaushal managed and then submitted bogus payment requests for work that hadn’t been completed or even started.

Kaushal’s conspirator, Ivan Victor Thrane, 65, of Dickerson, Maryland, the owner and president of three construction companies, pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme in late August.

The firm for which Kaushal worked as a project manager wasn’t named by prosecutors and was identified only as a construction and design company located in Beltsville, Maryland.

The Thursday news release details how Kaushal and Thrane worked together to prepare fraudulent payment requests, which Kaushal, as the project manager, approved. Once Thrane received the payment, he funneled a portion of those payments to Kaushal, according to prosecutors.

All told, from September 2015 to December 2016, Kaushal’s employer paid the Thrane companies approximately about $3.9 million as a result of the scheme. Kaushal received $1.7 million in checks from Thrane’s companies as a result of 34 separate kickback payments, according to prosecutors.

Kaushal’s company learned about the payments in December 2016, and prosecutors said the two men tried to conceal their scheme by emailing each other as if they were dutifully looking into the companies’ records to correct any possible overbilling. Thrane said his company’s accountant would look into the overpayments, although the Thrane companies didn’t even have an accountant.

Sometime in January, after Kaushal’s employer learned of the fraud, Kaushal wired a total of $650,000, which included fraudulent proceeds, from his personal bank account to an account in India on which Kaushal was listed as one of the beneficiaries.

Kaushal’s employer first filed a civil suit against him and Thrane and won a default judgment against Kaushal of about $1.7 million. Kaushal then filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, testifying during a hearing that he used some of the money to buy a condo for a family member in India and he had gambled away more than $100,000. He couldn’t account for more than $1 million of the kickback payments.

Kaushal’s petition for bankruptcy was denied by the bankruptcy court.

Kaushal faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and is scheduled for sentencing on January 14, 2020. Thrane is scheduled to be sentenced on January, 7, 2020.

As part of their plea agreements, Thrane and Kaushal are required to forfeit and pay about $988,805 in restitution.

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