Fourth Individual in NYPA Big-Rigging Scandal Comes Forward, Faces up to Three Years and $250,000

Washington, D.C.-  The New York Power Authority (NYPA) has recently come under multilateral investigation over allegations of bid rigging, tax fraud, and market fixture.  The DOJ, IRS, and New York Inspector General are all working jointly in this case and have subsequently made their fourth indivdual charge.  John Simonlacaj (White Plains, NY) has confessed to aiding the NYPA in filing false tax returns and now faces up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The original article is reproduced below with its link following.

 

Fourth Individual Charged in Ongoing New York Power Authority Procurement Fraud Investigation

The Department of Justice, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the New York State Inspector General, which are all conducting a joint federal and state investigation into bid-rigging, fraud and tax-related offenses in the award of contracts at the New York Power Authority (NYPA), announced today that a Westchester County, New York, resident pleaded guilty today to aiding and assisting in the filing of a false tax return.

According to the one-count felony charge filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, in White Plains, New York, John Simonlacaj caused another individual to file a Form 1040 for the tax year 2010 that substantially understated that individual’s taxable income.  Simonlacaj pleaded guilty to aiding and assisting in the filing of a false tax return, which carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

“Our investigation into bid rigging and fraud by companies supplying the New York Power Authority has uncovered a variety of criminal activity,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Renata Hesse, head of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.  “Filing a false tax return is a serious offense and we are pleased to have worked with our partners in law enforcement to prosecute the criminal violation.”

“We say many times the FBI won’t stop until we find everyone responsible for their roles in a criminal investigation,” said Assistant Director in Charge Diego Rodriguez of the FBI’s New York Field Office.  “These charges prove our tenacity in digging until we hit the bottom of the pile and uncover anyone who had a part in criminal wrongdoing.”

“Today’s plea marks yet another defendant admitting guilt following a bid rigging investigation that began at the state level. My office and those of my federal law enforcement partners, will continue to follow the evidence wherever it may lead,” said New York State Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott.

“Mr. Simonlacaj is now held accountable for his role in filing a false tax return,” said Special Agent in Charge Shantelle P. Kitchen of the IRS Criminal Investigation New York Field Office.  “Towards pursuing its goal of ensuring that that everyone pays their fair share of taxes, IRS Criminal Investigation remains committed to this ongoing investigation.”

The investigation is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s New York Office with the assistance of the FBI, IRS Criminal Investigation and the New York State Office of the Inspector General.  NYPA is cooperating with the investigation.  Anyone with information on bid rigging or other anticompetitive conducted related to the award or performance of municipal and state contracts should contact the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at 888-647-3258 or visit http://www.just

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Georgia Real Estate Investors Plead Guilty to Bid Rigging and Fraud at Public Foreclosure Auctions

Two Georgia real estate investors pleaded guilty today for their roles in a conspiracy to rig bids and commit mail fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Georgia, the Department of Justice announced.

Separate felony charges were filed against Mohammad Adeel Yoonas and Kevin Shin on Dec. 23, 2014, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta.  According to court documents, from at least as early as April 2008 until at least March 2012, Yoonas conspired with others not to bid against one another, but instead designated a winning bidder to obtain selected properties at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Gwinnett County, Georgia.  Yoonas was also charged with a conspiracy to use the mail to carry out a scheme to fraudulently acquire titles to selected Gwinnett County properties sold at public auctions, to make and receive payoffs and to divert money to co-conspirators that would have gone to mortgage holders, homeowners and others by holding second, private auctions open only to members of the conspiracy.  The department said that the selected properties were then awarded to the conspirators who submitted the highest bids in the second, private auctions.

Shin, according to court documents, conspired with others not to bid against one another, but instead designated a winning bidder to obtain selected properties at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Gwinnett County from at least as early as March 2009 until at least March 2012.  Shin was also charged with a conspiracy to use the mail to carry out a scheme to fraudulently acquire title to selected Gwinnett County properties sold at public auctions, to make and receive payoffs and to divert money to co-conspirators that would have gone to mortgage holders, homeowners and others by holding second, private auctions open only to members of the conspiracy.  The department said that the selected properties were then awarded to the conspirators who submitted the highest bids in the second, private auctions.

“These six guilty pleas result from the Antitrust Division’s ongoing investigation into schemes to rig public real estate foreclosure auctions in Georgia,” said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer for the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.  “The division will continue working with its law enforcement partners to expose cartels that harm distressed homeowners and lenders.”

The department said that the primary purpose of the conspiracies was to suppress and restrain competition and to conceal payoffs in order to obtain selected real estate offered at Gwinnett County public foreclosure auctions at non-competitive prices.  When real estate properties are sold at these auctions, the proceeds are used to pay off the mortgage, and other debt attached to the property, with remaining proceeds, if any, paid to the homeowner.  According to court documents, these conspirators paid and received money that otherwise would have gone to pay off the mortgage and other holders of debt secured by the properties, and, in some cases, the defaulting homeowner.

“The criminal actions of the defendants in this case provide a clear example of why enforcement of the Sherman Act remains necessary in maintaining a level and competitive field within commerce,” said Special Agent in Charge J. Britt Johnson for the FBI Atlanta Field Office.  “The FBI will continue to work with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division in identifying such financial schemes that attempt to take unfair advantage, to include those targeting the foreclosure auction process.”

A violation of the Sherman Act carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals.  The maximum fine for a Sherman Act charge may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime if either amount is greater than the statutory maximum fine.  A count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine in an amount equal to the greatest of $250,000, twice the gross gain the conspirators derived from the crime or twice the gross loss caused to the victims of the crime by the conspirators.

The investigation is being conducted by Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal II Section and the FBI’s Atlanta Division, with the assistance of the Atlanta Field Office of the Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia.  Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to public real estate foreclosure auctions in Georgia should contact Washington Criminal II Section of the Antitrust Division at 202-598-4000, call the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at 1-888-647-3258, or visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.htm.

Today’s charges were brought in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.  The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.  With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud.  Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations.  Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants.  For more information on the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.

Northern California Real Estate Investor Pleads Guilty to Bid Rigging and Fraud at Public Foreclosure Auctions

Investigations Have Yielded 51 Plea Agreements and Five Indictments to Date

A Northern California real estate investor pleaded guilty for his role in bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California, the Department of Justice announced.

Charles Rock was indicted on Dec. 3, 2014, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Oakland, California.  The indictment alleged that Charles Rock and others agreed not to compete at public foreclosure auctions in Contra Costa County, California, and diverted money to themselves that should have gone to mortgage holders and other beneficiaries.  Charles Rock pleaded guilty to one count of bid rigging and two counts of mail fraud.

To date, 51 individuals have agreed to plead or have pleaded guilty as a result of the department’s ongoing antitrust investigations into bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California.  In addition, 21 real estate investors, including Charles Rock, have been charged in five multi-count indictments for their roles in bid-rigging and fraud schemes at foreclosure auctions in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, and San Mateo counties.

The indictment alleges, among other things, that as early as June 2008 until about January 2011, Charles Rock and others conspired to rig bids to obtain numerous properties sold at foreclosure auctions in Contra Costa County, negotiated payoffs for agreeing not to compete, held second, private auctions known as “rounds,” concealed those rounds and payoffs, and in the process, defrauded mortgage holders and other beneficiaries.

“This is the first post-indictment plea resulting from the investigation and marks a positive step forward in resolving the case,” said Brent Snyder, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program.  “It is important for those who conspired to profit from rigged bids and illegal payoffs to take responsibility for their actions.”

“These charges demonstrate our continued commitment to investigate and prosecute individuals and organizations responsible for the corruption of the public foreclosure auction process,” said David J. Johnson, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco Field Office.  “The FBI is committed to work these important cases and remains unwavering in our dedication to bring the members of these illegal conspiracies to justice.”

A violation of the Sherman Act carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals.  The maximum fine for the Sherman Act charges may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victim if either amount is greater than $1 million.  Each count of mail fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Today’s charges are the latest filed by the department in its ongoing investigation into bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa, and Alameda counties, California.  These investigations are being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office and the FBI’s San Francisco Office.  Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to public real estate foreclosure auctions should contact the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office at 415-934-5300, or call the FBI tip line at 415-553-7400.

Today’s charges were brought in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.  The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.  With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud.  Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations.  Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants.  For more information on the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.

Five Northern California Real Estate Investors Indicted for Bid Rigging and Fraud at Public Foreclosure Auctions

A federal grand jury in San Francisco returned a nine-count indictment against five real estate investors for their role in bid rigging and fraud at foreclosure auctions in Northern California, the Department of Justice announced.

The indictment, filed today in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Oakland, California, charges Northern California real estate investors John Michael Galloway, Nicholas Diaz, Glenn Guillory, Thomas Joyce and Charles Rock with participating in a conspiracy to rig bids and a scheme to defraud mortgage holders and others.  The indictment alleges that the defendants agreed not to compete at public foreclosure auctions in Contra Costa County, California, and diverted money to themselves and others that should have gone to mortgage holders and other beneficiaries.

To date, 50 individuals have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges as a result of the department’s ongoing antitrust investigations into bid rigging and fraud at public foreclosure auctions in Northern California.  In addition, 21 real estate investors have been charged in five multi-count indictments for their roles in bid rigging and fraud schemes at foreclosure auctions in Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco counties.

“The Antitrust Division will continue to cooperate with its law enforcement partners to bring to justice those who undermine the competitive market for foreclosed properties,” said Brent Snyder, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program.  “Public auctions are meant for the public, not for an elite group conspiring together for their own profit.”

The indictments allege, among other things, that as early as June 2008 until about January 2011, the defendants conspired to rig bids to obtain numerous properties sold at foreclosure auctions in Contra Costa County, negotiated payoffs for agreeing not to compete, held second, private auctions known as “rounds,” concealed those rounds and payoffs, and, in the process, defrauded mortgage holders and other beneficiaries.

“These charges demonstrate our continued commitment to investigate and prosecute individuals and organizations responsible for the corruption of the public foreclosure auction process,” said David J. Johnson, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco Field Office.  “The FBI is committed to work these important cases and remains unwavering in our dedication to bring the members of these illegal conspiracies to justice.”

Each violation of the Sherman Act carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals.  Each count of mail fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.  The government can also seek to forfeit the proceeds earned from participating in the mail fraud schemes.  The maximum fine for the Sherman Act charges may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims if either amount is greater than $1 million.

Today’s charges are the latest filed by the department in its ongoing investigation into bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa and Alameda counties, California.  These investigations are being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office and the FBI’s San Francisco Office.  Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to public real estate foreclosure auctions should contact the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office at 415-934-5300, or call the FBI tip line at 415-553-7400.

The charges were brought in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.  The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.  With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud.  Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations.  Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants.  For more information on the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA REAL ESTATE INVESTOR AGREES TO PLEAD GUILTY TO BID RIGGING AND FRAUD AT PUBLIC FORECLOSURE AUCTIONS

WASHINGTON — A Northern California real estate investor has agreed to plead guilty for his role in conspiracies to rig bids and commit mail fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California, the Department of Justice announced.

Felony charges were filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Oakland against Garry Wan of Concord, California.  To date, 50 individuals have agreed to plead or have pleaded guilty, as a result of the department’s ongoing antitrust investigations into bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California.

According to court documents, beginning as early as May 2008 until January 2011, Wan conspired with others not to bid against one another, and instead designate a winning bidder to obtain selected properties at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Alameda County.  Wan was also charged with conspiring to use the mail to carry out a scheme to fraudulently acquire title to selected Alameda County properties sold at public auctions, to make and receive payoffs, and to divert money to co-conspirators that would have otherwise gone to mortgage holders and other beneficiaries by holding second, private auctions open only to members of the conspiracy.  The department said that the selected properties were then awarded to the conspirators who submitted the highest bids in the second, private auctions.  The private auctions often took place at or near the courthouse steps where the public auctions were held.

“While there has been a lengthy series of guilty pleas by the participants in this activity, the division’s work is not yet over,” said Brent Snyder, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program.  “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute collusion at real estate foreclosure auctions, which allow the conspirators to profit from illegal payoffs at the expense of financial institutions and distressed homeowners.”

The department said that the primary purpose of the conspiracies was to suppress and eliminate competition and to conceal payoffs in order to obtain selected real estate offered at Alameda County public foreclosure auctions at non-competitive prices. When real estate properties are sold at these auctions, the proceeds are used to pay off the mortgage and other debt attached to the property, with remaining proceeds, if any, paid to the homeowner. According to court documents, these conspirators paid and received money that otherwise would have gone to pay off the mortgage and other holders of debt secured by the properties, and, in some cases, the defaulting homeowner.

“These charges demonstrate our continued commitment to investigate and prosecute individuals and organizations responsible for the corruption of the public foreclosure auction process,” said David J. Johnson, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco Field Office.  “The FBI is committed to work these important cases and remains unwavering in our dedication to bring the members of these illegal conspiracies to justice.”

A violation of the Sherman Act carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals.  The maximum fine for the Sherman Act charges may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victim if either amount is greater than $1 million.  A count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.  The government can also seek to forfeit the proceeds earned from participating in the conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

Today’s charges are the latest filed by the department in its ongoing investigation into bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa, and Alameda counties, California.  These investigations are being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office and the FBI’s San Francisco Office. Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to public real estate foreclosure auctions should contact the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office at 415-934-5300, or call the FBI tip line at 415-553-7400.

Today’s charges were brought in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.

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Two Northern California Real Estate Investors Agree to Plead Guilty to Bid Rigging and Fraud at Public Foreclosure Auctions

Two Northern California real estate investors have agreed to plead guilty for their role in conspiracies to rig bids and commit mail fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California, the Department of Justice announced.

Felony charges were filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Oakland against Su Chu Chou “Terry” Cheng and Chung Li “George” Cheng of Walnut Creek, California.

To date, as a result of the department’s ongoing antitrust investigations into bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California, 49 individuals have agreed to plead or have pleaded guilty.

Between May 2008 and January 2011, according to the court documents, George and Terry Cheng conspired with others not to bid against one another, and instead designated a winning bidder to obtain selected properties at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.  George and Terry Cheng were also charged with conspiring to use the mail to carry out a scheme to fraudulently acquire title to selected Alameda and Contra Costa County properties sold at public auctions, to make and receive payoffs, and to divert money to co-conspirators that would have otherwise gone to mortgage holders and other beneficiaries by holding second, private auctions open only to members of the conspiracy.  The department said that the selected properties were then awarded to the conspirators who submitted the highest bids in the second, private auctions.  The private auctions often took place at or near the courthouse steps where the public auctions were held.

“The Antitrust Division continues to vigorously pursue and prosecute those who rig bids and commit fraud at real estate foreclosure auctions,” said Brent Snyder, Deputy Assistant Attorney for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program.  “The division is committed to working closely with its law enforcement partners to ensure that these real estate auctions are fair and open so that consumers will benefit from competition.”

The department said that the primary purpose of the conspiracies was to suppress and eliminate competition and to conceal payoffs in order to obtain selected real estate offered at Alameda and Contra Costa County public foreclosure auctions at non-competitive prices.  When real estate properties are sold at these auctions, the proceeds are used to pay off the mortgage and other debt attached to the property, with remaining proceeds, if any, paid to the homeowner.  These conspirators paid and received money, according to the court documents, that otherwise would have gone to pay off the mortgage and other holders of debt secured by the properties, and, in some cases, the defaulting homeowner.

“These charges demonstrate our continued commitment to investigate and prosecute individuals and organizations responsible for the corruption of the public foreclosure auction process,” said David J. Johnson, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco Field Office.  “The FBI is committed to work these important cases and remains unwavering in our dedication to bring the members of these illegal conspiracies to justice.”

A violation of the Sherman Act carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals.  The maximum fine for the Sherman Act charges may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims if either amount is greater than $1 million.  A count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.  The government can also seek to forfeit the proceeds earned from participating in the conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

Today’s charges are the latest filed by the department in its ongoing investigation into bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa, and Alameda counties, California.  These investigations are being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office and the FBI’s San Francisco Office.  Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to public real estate foreclosure auctions should contact the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office at 415-934-5300, or call the FBI tip line at 415-553-7400.

Today’s charges were brought in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.  The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.  With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud.  Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations.  Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants.  For more information on the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.

ELEVEN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA REAL ESTATE INVESTORS INDICTED FOR

WASHINGTON — A federal grand jury in San Francisco returned three multi-count indictments against eleven real estate investors for their role in bid rigging and fraud schemes at foreclosure auctions in Northern California, the Department of Justice announced.

The indictments, filed late yesterday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Oakland, California, charge Northern California real estate investors Michael Marr; Javier Sanchez; Gregory Casorso; Victor Marr; John Shiells; Miguel De Sanz; Alvin Florida Jr.; Robert A. Rasheed; John L. Berry III; Refugio Diaz; and Stephan A. Florida with participating in conspiracies to rig bids and schemes to defraud mortgage holders and others.  The indictments allege that the defendants agreed not to compete at public auctions in return for payoffs and diverted money to themselves and others that should have gone to mortgage holders and other beneficiaries.  All defendants were charged with bid rigging and fraud in Alameda County, California.  Marr, Sanchez, Shiells, and De Sanz were also charged with bid rigging and fraud in Contra Costa County, California.  Additionally, Shiells and De Sanz were charged with bid rigging and fraud in San Francisco County, California.

To date, 47 individuals have pleaded guilty to criminal charges as a result of the department’s ongoing antitrust investigations into bid rigging and fraud at public foreclosure auctions in Northern California.  On Oct. 22, 2014, a federal grand jury in San Francisco returned an eight-count indictment against five additional real estate investors for their role in bid rigging and fraud schemes at foreclosure auctions in San Mateo and San Francisco Counties, California.

“Collusion at the foreclosure auctions created an unfair playing field where conspirators pocketed illegal payoffs at the expense of lenders and distressed homeowners,” said Brent Snyder, Deputy Assistant Attorney for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program.  “The division will continue to investigate and prosecute local cartels that harm the competitive process.”

The indictments allege, among other things, that at various times between June 2007 and January 2011, the defendants conspired to rig bids to obtain numerous properties sold at foreclosure auctions in Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Francisco counties, negotiated payoffs for agreeing not to compete, held second, private auctions known as “rounds,” concealed those rounds and payoffs, and, in the process, defrauded mortgage holders and other beneficiaries.

“These charges demonstrate our continued commitment to investigate and prosecute individuals and organizations responsible for the corruption of the public foreclosure auction process,” said David J. Johnson, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco Field Office.  “The FBI is committed to work these important cases and remains unwavering in our dedication to bring the members of these illegal conspiracies to justice.”

Each violation of the Sherman Act carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals.  Each count of mail fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.  The government can also seek to forfeit the proceeds earned from participating in the mail fraud schemes.  The maximum fine for the Sherman Act charges may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims if either amount is greater than $1 million.

These indictments are the latest charges filed by the department in its ongoing investigation into bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa, and Alameda counties, California.  These investigations are being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office and the FBI’s San Francisco Office.  Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to public real estate foreclosure auctions should contact the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office at 415-934-5300, or call the FBI tip line at 415-553-7400.

The charges were brought in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.  The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.  With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud.  Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations.  Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants.  For more information on the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.

Alabama Real Estate Investor Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud

An Alabama real estate investor pleaded guilty yesterday for his role in a conspiracy to commit mail fraud related to public real estate foreclosure auctions held in southern Alabama, the Department of Justice announced today.  To date, 10 individuals and two companies have pleaded guilty in connection with the department’s ongoing investigation into bid rigging and fraudulent schemes in the Alabama real estate foreclosure auction industry.

Chad E. Foster, a resident of Theodore, Alabama, pleaded guilty yesterday to an indictment filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud affecting a financial institution.  According to court documents, Foster knowingly joined a conspiracy with others to, among other things, fraudulently acquire title to selected properties at artificially suppressed prices, to conduct secret, second auctions open only to members of the conspiracy, to make payoffs to and receive payoffs from co-conspirators, and to divert money away from financial institutions, homeowners and others with a legal interest in selected properties.

“This guilty plea demonstrates the Antitrust Division’s resolve to pursue those who conspire to defraud distressed homeowners and financial institutions,” said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.  “The division will continue to hold accountable individuals who subvert the competitive process for their own gains.”

“We are committed to partnering with the Antitrust Division,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert F. Lasky of the Mobile Field Office.  “And we will hold accountable those individuals who profited illegally at the expense of financial institutions and struggling homeowners.”

The charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud affecting a financial institution carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Yesterday’s charge stems from an ongoing investigation being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal II Section and the FBI’s Mobile Field Office, with the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Alabama.  Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to public real estate foreclosure auctions in Alabama should call the Antitrust Division at 202-598-4000, or visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.htm.

Yesterday’s charges were brought in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.  The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.  With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud.  Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations.  Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants.  For more information on the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.

FIVE NORTHERN CALIFORNIA REAL ESTATE INVESTORS INDICTED FOR BID

WASHINGTON — A federal grand jury in San Francisco returned an eight-count indictment against five real estate investors for their role in bid rigging and fraud schemes at foreclosure auctions in Northern California, the Department of Justice announced.

The indictment, filed today in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco, California, charges Northern California real estate investors Joseph Giraudo, Raymond Grinsell, Kevin Cullinane, James Appenrodt and Abraham Farag with participating in conspiracies to rig bids and schemes to defraud mortgage holders and others.  The indictment alleges that the defendants agreed to stop bidding or to refrain from bidding for properties at public foreclosure auctions in San Mateo County, California, in return for payoffs and concealing the fact that monies were diverted from mortgage holders, homeowners and others to co-schemers.  Additionally, Giraudo, Grinsell and Appenrodt were charged with bid rigging and fraud in San Francisco County, California.  To date, 47 individuals have agreed to plead or have pleaded guilty, as a result of the department’s ongoing antitrust investigations into bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California.

“These defendants corrupted the public foreclosure auctions in San Mateo and San Francisco counties, and they did so to line their pockets with money that rightfully belonged to mortgage holders and others,” said Brent Snyder, Deputy Assistant Attorney for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program.  “As these charges demonstrate, the Antitrust Division will continue to pursue bidders at foreclosure auctions who violated the Sherman Act and defrauded mortgage holders and others.”

The indictment alleges, among other things, that beginning no later than August 2008 and continuing until January 2011, the defendants conspired to rig bids to obtain numerous properties sold at foreclosure auctions in San Mateo and San Francisco counties, paid others not to bid, accepted payoffs not to bid and, in the process, defrauded mortgage holders, other holders of debt secured by the auctioned properties and, in some cases, the defaulting homeowners.

“These charges demonstrate our continued commitment to investigate and prosecute individuals and organizations responsible for the corruption of the public foreclosure auction process,” said David J. Johnson, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco Field Office.  “The FBI is committed to work these important cases and remains unwavering in our dedication to bring the members of these illegal conspiracies to justice.”

Each violation of the Sherman Act carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals.  Each count of mail fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.  The government can also seek to forfeit the proceeds earned from participating in the mail fraud schemes.  The maximum fine for the Sherman Act charges may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victim if either amount is greater than $1 million.

Today’s charges are the latest filed by the department in its ongoing investigation into bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa, and Alameda counties, California.  These investigations are being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office and the FBI’s San Francisco Office.  Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to public real estate foreclosure auctions should contact the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office at 415-934-5300, or call the FBI tip line at 415-553-7400.

Today’s charges were brought in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.  The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.  With more than 20 federal agencies, 93 U.S. Attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it is the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud.  Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations.  Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants, including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants.  For more information on the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.

GEORGIA REAL ESTATE INVESTOR PLEADS GUILTY TO BID RIGGING AND FRAUD AT PUBLIC FORECLOSURE AUCTIONS

(Brad Geyer: “This is a Georgia housing auction case that is the first instance I have seen where a former Atlanta Field Office legacy case makes reference to the Washington Criminal II Section in a press release.  This is further indication that the Antitrust Division has completed its reorganization and is now approaching full integration.  Achieving full integration is important for agency productivity because it ushers in a greater mix and quantity of investigations and prosecutions.  Attorneys needed to complete their moves between duty stations, new attorneys take time to find mentors and build confidence, and everyone gets established in their new settings with new combinations of stakeholders and managers.  As I have said previously, with strong White House emphasis means housing auction fraud will continue to be an Antitrust Division enforcement priority.  This also means the FBI is fully engaged and this focus is likely to continue through at least the first year of the next administration and new leads will be run down and on-going investigations will continue to be worked hard at least through early 2016.  The question is what the posture will be in opening new investigations in other areas?  Recent indications suggest the pipeline is opening and the threshold has been lowered somewhat in terms of the quantity and quality of evidence that must be established by line attorneys to justify investigative authority.  This has a disproportionate effect on enforcement because when the Antitrust Division is solicitous of new cases outside the Title 15 allegation of first impression, agencies know they have another place to go with marginal cases after a US Attorney’s office declines a case.  This spurs investigations of marginal matters and increases quantity, mix and duration of investigations.  This stimulates investigative activities across the investigative agency platform).  

WASHINGTON — A Georgia real estate investor pleaded guilty today for his role in  conspiracies to rig bids and commit mail fraud at public real estate foreclosure  auctions in Georgia, the Department of Justice announced.

Felony charges were filed on March  25, 2014, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta,  against Mohamed Hanif Omar.  According  to court documents, from at least as early as Sept. 1, 2009, until at least March  7, 2012, Omar conspired  with others not to bid against one another, and instead to designate a winning  bidder to obtain selected properties at public real estate foreclosure auctions  in Gwinnett County, Ga.  Omar was also charged with conspiring to  commit mail fraud by fraudulently acquiring title to selected Gwinnett County  properties sold at public auctions.  Additionally,  he was charged with making and receiving payoffs and diverting money to  co-conspirators that would have gone to mortgage holders and others by holding  second, private auctions open only to members of the conspiracy.  The department said that the selected  properties were then awarded to the conspirators who submitted the highest bids  in the second, private auctions.

“Today’s guilty plea is the fourth in the Antitrust  Division’s ongoing investigation into anticompetitive conduct at public real  estate foreclosure auctions in Georgia,” said Bill Baer, Assistant Attorney  General in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.  “The division remains committed to working  with its law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute local cartels  that harm distressed homeowners and lenders.”

The  department said that the primary purpose of the conspiracies was to suppress  and restrain competition and to conceal payoffs in order to obtain selected  real estate offered at Gwinnett County public foreclosure auctions at  non-competitive prices.  When real estate  properties are sold at the auctions, the proceeds are used to pay off the  mortgage and other debt attached to the property, with remaining proceeds, if  any, paid to the homeowner.  According to  court documents, the conspirators paid and received money that otherwise would  have gone to pay off the mortgage and other holders of debt secured by the  properties, and, in some cases, the defaulting homeowner.

“Today’s plea should further serve  as an example for those who would consider exploiting the processes in place  regarding public foreclosures,” said J. Britt Johnson, Special Agent in Charge  of the FBI Atlanta Field Office. “The intent of the Sherman Act was to provide  a level and competitive field within commerce and the FBI intends to enforce  these types of violations.”

A violation of the  Sherman Act carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million  fine for individuals.  The maximum fine  for a Sherman Act charge may be increased to twice the gain derived from the  crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime if either amount  is greater than the statutory maximum fine.  A count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud  carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for  individuals.  The fine may be increased  to twice the gross gain the conspirators derived from the crime or twice the  gross loss caused to the victims of the crime.

The investigation is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s new Washington Criminal II Section  and the FBI’s Atlanta  Division, with the assistance of the Atlanta Field Office of the Housing and  Urban Development Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Attorney’s Office  for the Northern District of Georgia.  Anyone  with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to public real estate  foreclosure auctions in Georgia should contact the Antitrust Division at 404-331-7113,  call the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at 1-888-647-3258, or visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.htm.

Today’s charges were brought in  connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.  The task force was established to wage an  aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute  financial crimes.  With more than 20  federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it  is the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory  agencies ever assembled to combat fraud.  Since its formation, the task force has made  great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of  financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state  and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial  markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions  and other organizations.  Over the past  three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial  fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants, including more than 2,900  mortgage fraud defendants.  For more  information on the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.