CCC’s: Brent Snyder’s Remarks On Individual Accountability for Antitrust Crimes

Brent Snyder, the Antitrust Division’s Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Criminal Enforcement, made extended remarks today at the Yale Global Antitrust Enforcement Conference (here). Mr. Snyder emphasized that the Division has long believed, and acted on this belief, that holding individuals accountable for antitrust crimes was both appropriate and the best means of deterrence:

This emphasis on individual accountability is fundamental to Antitrust Division prosecutors. The division has long touted prison time for individuals as the single most effective deterrent to the “temptation to cheat the system and profit from collusion.” My predecessors ensured that this message was often repeated. To quote just one of them, Scott Hammond said that “[i]t is indisputable that the most effective deterrent to cartel offenses is to impose jail sentences on the individuals who commit them.”

Mr. Snyder also made the first remarks (I believe) on how the September 9, 2015 Yatesmemorandum (here) has affected Antitrust Division practices:

Our record with respect to individual accountability speaks for itself. But we are embracing the Deputy Attorney General’s directive to do even better. We have adopted new internal procedures to ensure that each of our criminal offices systematically identifies all potentially culpable individuals as early in the investigative process as feasible and that we bring cases against individuals as quickly as evidentiary sufficiency permits to minimize the risk that cases will be time-barred or that evidence will become stale from the passage of time. We are also undertaking a more comprehensive review of the organizational structure of culpable companies to ensure that we are identifying and investigating all senior executives who potentially condoned, directed, or participated in the criminal conduct.

It will be interesting to see how/if the Yates memo affects Division prosecution decisions in regard to how far down the cartel bench in a given company the Division may go to hold individuals accountable. After all, many cartels, particularly international cartels, can involve many employees (and former employees) of a firm.

It will also be interesting to see if the new policy memo has any effect on the Division’s Corporate Leniency Program. It can be argued that granting leniency to all culpable current employees of the leniency applicant is inconsistent with the Yates memo if the necessary cooperation could be gained at a lower cost. That may be a  topic covered in an upcoming ABA program: The DOJ Amnesty Program After The Yates Memo (here).

Thanks for reading.

SANDEN CORP. AGREES TO PLEAD GUILTY TO PRICE FIXING ON AUTOMOBILE PARTS INSTALLED IN U.S. CARS

Company Agrees to Pay $3.2 Million Criminal Fine

WASHINGTON — Sanden Corp., an automotive parts manufacturer based in Gunma, Japan, has agreed to plead guilty and to pay a $3.2 million criminal fine for its role in a conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition for the purchase of compressors used in air conditioning systems sold to Nissan North America Inc. for installation in vehicles manufactured and sold in the United States and elsewhere, the Department of Justice announced today.

According to a one-count felony charge filed today in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit, Sanden conspired to fix the prices of compressors sold to Nissan.  In addition to the criminal fine, Sanden has agreed to cooperate in the department’s ongoing investigation.  The plea agreement is subject to court approval.

“Today’s charge is the latest in the Antitrust Division’s ongoing investigation of automobile parts suppliers,” said Brent Snyder, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program.  “The division continues to vigorously prosecute companies and individuals that seek to maximize their profits through illegal, anticompetitive means.”

The department said that Sanden and its co-conspirator held meetings and conversations to discuss and agree upon the bids and price quotations submitted to Nissan for the purchase of compressors used in automotive air conditioning systems.  Sanden’s involvement in the conspiracy lasted from as early as August 2008 until at least April 2009.

Including Sanden, 33 companies and 50 individuals have been charged in the department’s ongoing investigation into price fixing and bid rigging in the automotive parts industry.  All of the charged companies have pleaded guilty or have agreed to plead guilty and to pay a combined total of more than $2.4 billion in fines.

Sanden is charged with fixing prices in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty of a $100 million criminal fine for corporations.  The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.

Today’s charge is the result of an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct in the automotive parts industry, which is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement sections and the FBI.  Today’s charges were brought by the Antitrust Division’s New York Office and the FBI’s New York Field Office, with the assistance of the FBI headquarters’ International Corruption Unit.  Anyone with information on price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct related to the automotive parts industry should contact the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at 1–888–647–3258, visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html or call the FBI’s New York Field Office at 212-384-1000.

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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T.RAD Executive Agrees to Plead Guilty to Bid Rigging and Price Fixing on Automobile Parts Installed in U.S. Cars

An executive of Japan-based T.RAD Co. Ltd. has agreed to plead guilty and to serve one year and one day in a U.S. prison for participating in a conspiracy to fix prices of radiators installed in cars sold in the United States and elsewhere, the Department of Justice announced today.

A one-count felony charge was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit against Kosei Tamura, a general manager for T.RAD.  According to the charge, Tamura, a Japanese national, conspired from as early as November 2002 until at least February 2010, by agreeing to allocate bids for, and prices of, radiators sold to Honda Motor Co. Ltd. and certain of its subsidiaries in the United States and elsewhere.  In addition to the prison sentence, Tamura has agreed to pay a $20,000 criminal fine and to cooperate with the department’s ongoing investigation.  The plea agreement is subject to court approval.

“Companies and their executives should do their part to ensure American consumers are guaranteed a fair marketplace within the automotive industry,” said Brent Snyder, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program.  “The Antitrust Division will continue to hold accountable the companies and executives who ignore these laws in order to make this a reality.”

T.RAD is a manufacturer of radiators and was engaged in the sale of radiators in the United States and elsewhere.  Radiators are devices located in the engine compartment of a vehicle that cool the engine.

In November 2013, T.RAD pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $13.75 million criminal fine for its role in a conspiracy to fix the prices of radiators and automatic transmission fluid warmers.

Including today’s charges, 48 individuals have been charged in the department’s ongoing investigation into price fixing and bid rigging in the auto parts industry.  Additionally, 32 companies have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty and have agreed to pay a total of more than $2.4 billion in fines.

Tamura is charged with price fixing in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $1 million criminal fine for individuals.  The maximum fine for an individual may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.

The current prosecution arose from an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging, and other anticompetitive conduct in the automotive parts industry, which is being conducted by each of the Antitrust Division’s criminal sections and the FBI.  This case was brought by the Washington Criminal I Section of the Antitrust Division with the assistance of the Detroit Field Office of the FBI.  Anyone with information concerning the focus of this investigation should contact the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at 1-888-647-3258, visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html or call the Detroit Field Office of the FBI at 313-965-2323.

Former Mitsuba Executive Agrees to Plead Guilty to Bid Rigging and Price Fixing on Automobile Parts Installed in U.S. Cars

A former executive of Japan-based Mitsuba Corporation has agreed to plead guilty and serve 13 months in a U.S. prison for conspiring to fix the prices of products installed in cars sold in the United States and elsewhere, the Department of Justice announced today.

A one-count felony charge was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit against Kazumi Umahashi, a Japanese national and former General Manager of Mitsuba.  Umahashi conspired from in or about June 2005 to in or about December 2009 by agreeing upon bids and prices for, and allocating the supply of, windshield wiper systems and starter motors sold to Honda Motor Co. Ltd. and its subsidiaries and affiliates in the United States and elsewhere, according to the charge.  Umahashi also has agreed to pay a $20,000 criminal fine and cooperate with the department’s ongoing investigation.  The plea agreement is subject to court approval.

“The Antitrust Division has uncovered dozens of conspiracies to fix prices in the automotive industry,” said Brent Snyder, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program.  “The impact of these schemes has affected nearly every American.  We will continue our efforts to hold culpable companies and individuals accountable for their illegal actions.”

Mitsuba manufactures and sells a variety of automotive parts, including starter motors, which are small electric motors used in internal combustion engines, and windshield wiper systems.  On Nov. 6, 2013, Mitsuba pleaded guilty for its involvement in the conspiracy and agreed to pay $135 million in criminal fines.

Umahashi is charged with price fixing and bid rigging in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum sentence for individuals of 10 years and a fine of $1 million.  The maximum fine for an individual may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.

Including today’s charges, 48 individuals have been charged in the department’s ongoing investigation into price fixing and bid rigging in the auto parts industry.  Additionally, 32 companies have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty and have agreed to pay a total of more than $2.4 billion in fines.

This prosecution arose from an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging, and other anticompetitive conduct in the automotive parts industry, which is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement sections and the FBI.  Today’s charge was brought by the Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal I Section with the assistance of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office and the FBI headquarters’ International Corruption Unit.  Anyone with information on price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct related to other products in the automotive parts industry should contact the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at 888-647-3258, visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html, or call the Detroit Field Office of the FBI at 313-965-2323.

Continental Automotive Electronics and Continental Automotive Korea Agree to Plead Guilty to Bid Rigging on Instrument Panel Clusters

Continental Automotive Electronics LLC and Continental Automotive Korea Ltd. both have agreed to plead guilty and to pay a single criminal fine of $4 million for their roles in a conspiracy to rig bids of instrument panel clusters installed in vehicles manufactured and sold in the United States, the Department of Justice announced today.

According to a one-count felony charge filed today in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Newnan Division, Continental Automotive Electronics LLC, based in Cheongwon, South Korea, and Continental Automotive Korea Ltd., based in Seongnam-si, South Korea, conspired to rig bids for instrument panel clusters sold to Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Motors Corp. and Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia in the United States and elsewhere.  In addition to the criminal fine, the companies have agreed to cooperate in the department’s ongoing investigation.  The plea agreement is subject to court approval.

“As the Antitrust Division’s prosecution of auto parts matters like this one demonstrates, we will prosecute those who participate in international cartels targeting U.S. businesses and consumers,” said Brent Snyder, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program.  “The Antitrust Division is working closely with competition enforcers around the world to ensure that companies and executives that engage in international cartel crimes find no refuge.”

The charged companies have acknowledged that they and their co-conspirators held meetings and conversations to discuss and agree upon allocation of sales of instrument panel clusters, and the bids and price quotations each would submit.  The charged companies’ involvement in the conspiracy began as early as March 2004 and continued until May 2012.

Instrument panel clusters are a set of instruments located on the dashboard of a vehicle that contain gauges such as a speedometer, tachometer, odometer, and fuel gauge, as well as warning indicators for gearshift position, seat belt, parking-brake engagement, engine malfunction, low fuel, low oil pressure and low tire pressure.

Including Continental Automotive Electronics LLC and Continental Automotive Korea Ltd., 32 companies and 46 executives have been charged in the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation into the automotive parts industry.  Each of the charged companies have either pleaded guilty or have agreed to plead guilty and have agreed to pay more than $2.4 billion in criminal fines.  Of the 46 individuals, 26 have been sentenced to serve time in U.S. prisons.

Continental Automotive Electronics LLC and Continental Automotive Korea Ltd. are charged with bid rigging in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries maximum penalties of a $100 million criminal fine for corporations.  The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.

The charges are the result of an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct in the automotive parts industry, which is being conducted by each of the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement sections and the FBI.  Today’s charges were brought by the Antitrust Division’s Chicago Office and the FBI’s Montgomery, Alabama Field Office, with the assistance of the FBI headquarters’ International Corruption Unit.  Anyone with information on price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct related to other products in the automotive parts industry should contact the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at 1–888–647–3258, visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html or call the FBI’s Montgomery, Alabama Field Office at 334-263-1691.

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.