A Florida man who was mistakenly arrested in a series of prostitution stings that ensnared New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft broke down while describing the humiliating bust he says upended his life.
“On Feb. 25, I thought my life had ended,” a tearful Sandipkumar Patel, 47, said Tuesday as he sat in his attorney David Golden’s office in Stuart, Fla., WPTV reported.
“Shame and dishonor not only fell upon me, but upon my family and our family name,” he said, as his wife Sonal Patel, 38, tried to console him.
“Imagine thinking about killing yourself,” the Jensen Beach man added, according to TCPalm.com. “This did not have to happen, and there is nothing that can erase the hell my family and I went through.”
Last month, authorities in Martin, Palm Beach and Indian River counties announced dozens of arrests after several spas were raided, including the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, where Kraft was accused of back-to-back visits.
He has pleaded not guilty to charges that he paid for sex at the massage parlor.
Last week, Martin Sheriff’s Lt. Mike Dougherty said Patel was wrongly identified as having patronized Florida Therapy Spa for sex acts in Stuart on Nov. 19. Charges against him were dropped Friday.
Patel, who owns two businesses and has two daughters, said he was in Chicago when the alleged crime happened.
The confusion happened when investigators ran the tags on a blue Porsche registered to a woman with the last name of Patel left the spa.
Dougherty said police identified a man with the last name Patel, who they say appeared to be identical to the man in the surveillance footage.
“When we discovered that Mr. Patel was mistakenly identified and arrested, we personally met with him to further investigate,” Martin County Sheriff William Snyder said in a statement.
“As a result, we notified the media and immediately began actions to pay his expenses and start 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.”
Golden, Patel’s attorney, said deputies went to his home and told Sonal her husband was caught on video paying money for sex acts.
“To show her his picture as causing her to believe that was him at that spa is just unconscionable,” Golden said.
Patel’s wife said she couldn’t catch her breath when she heard the charges leveled against her husband.
“I was led to believe the man I love and trust with our lives not only broken the trust, but brought shame to our family name,” she said.
“His face was plastered all over the internet for the world to see. My husband’s only crime was being a Patel.”
Patel, who came to the US from India in 1999, said two of his proudest moments are becoming an American citizen and marrying Sonal, who arrived in 2003.
He cited “izzat” and “charitra,” which mean dignity and character, respectively, in the western Indian language of Gujarati.
“You can be a millionaire, but without charitra and izzat you have nothing,” he said. “If I do something to bring shame to my family name, my daughters would not be able to marry.”
Golden said he plans to file a lawsuit against the Martin County Sheriff’s Office seeking compensation, accusing it of being “willing to sacrifice proper investigative work and our civil liberties for yet another arrest.”