A Concord real estate investor has made a plea agreement with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California for his alleged role in rigging bids and mail fraud in connection with public foreclosure auctions in Northern California. The investor was charged as part of an investigation under the Sherman Antitrust Act by the Justice Department. Under the Sherman Act, the federal government is obligated to investigate any activities that limit competition, such as the practice of bid rigging connected with foreclosures.
Authorities believe that the investor, in conspiracy with others, planned to designate a "winner" in auctions beforehand in order to keep the prices of foreclosed properties at a minimum. The mail fraud charges stemmed from the use of the United States mail to acquire titles and pay off investors. The fraudulent transactions in question occurred between June 2008 and September 2010.
If convicted on violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act, an individual can face up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $1 million. However, the fines can exceed $1 million if the defrauded individual, such as a homeowner, loses more than that amount.
The defendant in this case has already worked out a plea agreement. However, there are many other individuals who could be charged as part of this ongoing investigation or similar ones across the country. These individuals would be well-advised to seek advice from a criminal defense attorney. An experienced criminal defense attorney understands the complexities of white collar crimes and can help defendants protect themselves in federal court from criminal charges.
Source: Loan Safe, "Northern California Property Investor Agrees to Plead Guilty to Bid Rigging at Foreclosure Auctions," Moe Bedard, Nov. 1, 2012