San Francisco, California - Prithviraj R. Bhikha, a former employee of Cisco Systems, Inc. (Cisco), was charged in a criminal complaint with wire fraud, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett. The criminal complaint was unsealed last Monday following Bhikha’s arrest on Friday, March 1, 2019, at the San Francisco International Airport.
According to an affidavit filed by a special agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bhikha, 50, of San Francisco, was employed until mid-2017 by Cisco as a director in its global supply unit in San Jose, Calif. That unit was in charge of working with suppliers and vendors to obtain parts for Cisco products. In or about 2013, Bhikha is alleged to have begun advocating within Cisco for the approval of a new project, of which he would be in charge, the goal of which was for Cisco to retain third-party vendors to negotiate savings with manufacturers on small parts used in Cisco products. The complaint affidavit alleges that Bhikha devised, participated in, and executed a scheme to defraud Cisco by establishing overseas business entities, then directing and approving Cisco contracts to these entities pursuant to the aforementioned project, and failing to disclose his ownership interest in the overseas entities. The affidavit alleges that Cisco wired approximately $6.5 million to one of these entities and approximately $2.8 million to another. The affidavit also alleges more than $8.5 million was wired from bank accounts associated with these two overseas entities to U.S. bank accounts either controlled jointly by Bhikha and his wife or by his wife alone.
The complaint affidavit also alleges that, when Cisco employees became suspicious regarding one of Bhikha’s overseas entities in 2016, Bhikha and another Cisco employee worked together to create documentation to send to Cisco employees regarding that company. The other Cisco employee is also alleged to have asked a third party to pose as the CEO of the overseas entity in a meeting with Cisco employees in July 2016. Bhikha is charged with one count of wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343.
Bhikha made his initial appearance this morning in federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero. Magistrate Judge Spero released Bhikha on a $3,000,000 bond and scheduled his next court appearance for March 18, 2019, for preliminary hearing or arraignment.
A criminal complaint merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted on the charge in the criminal complaint, the defendant would face a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment, and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution if appropriate. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle Waldinger is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Rosario Calderon and Bridget Kilkenny. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.