Sonali Patel, who prosecuted a man for firing a gun in a Washington, DC pizzeria following an online conspiracy dubbed “Pizzagate”, joined the criminal fraud sections’ Foreign Corrupt Practices Act unit as a trial lawyer in October 2018. She was promoted to assistant chief in January 2021.
Patel was previously an assistant US attorney in Washington DC, where she took up her role in 2014. At the US attorney’s office in DC, Patel prosecuted a variety of cases from bribery to home invasions and armed assault.
She prosecuted Edgar Maddison Welch, a North Carolina resident who was sentenced to four years in prison in June 2017 for firing a rifle inside a Washington, DC pizzeria.
Prosecutors say Welch was investigating an online conspiracy theory known as “Pizzagate” that falsely claimed a child sex-trafficking ring led by Hillary Clinton was operating in the restaurant. The theory was spread online during Clinton’s 2016 bid for president. No one was injured in the shooting, and Welch apologised for the incident, saying that his decision to try and save the children he believed were at risk was “incredibly ill-advised”.
Patel then prosecuted the related-case of a Louisiana man – Yusif Lee Jones – who pleaded guilty to making threatening calls to a different DC pizzeria on the same block as the restaurant where the shooting had occurred just days prior.
Since joining the FCPA unit, Patel has already been assigned to one of the team’s most wide-spread corruption cases concerning Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). Patel was credited in a 30 October press release that announced the guilty plea of Ivan Alexis Guedez, a former purchasing manager for a PDVSA subsidiary in Houston. Guedez is the 15th person to plead guilty in the US for his participation in the scheme, and is scheduled to be sentenced in February next year.
Patel gained experience with bribery earlier this year when she prosecuted a case concerning a school owner who pleaded guilty to participating in a $2 billion bribery scheme. The owner of Atius Technology Institute, Maryland resident Albert Poawui, pleaded guilty in April to bribing a public official at the US Department of Veterans Affairs to secure business.
Patel continues to be an adjunct professor at American University Washington College of Law, where she has taught since 2015. Her profile also details that she was a law clerk for Judge Emmet Sullivan at the US District Court for the District of Columbia between 2012 and 2014 after spending three years as an associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell from 2009 to 2012.