Monday, July 13, 2015

Antitrust Feds Bag Two More In Ongoing Northern California Foreclosure Sale Bid-Rigging Probe; Guilty Plea Tally Now Up To 56 With Multi-Count Indictments Pending Against 19 Others

From the U.S. Department of Justice (Washington, D.C.):
  • Two Northern California real estate investors pleaded guilty for their role in bid-rigging conspiracies and mail fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California, the Department of Justice announced [].

    Real estate investors John Shiells, of Danville, California, and Miguel De Sanz, of San Francisco, each pleaded guilty to three counts of bid rigging and three counts of mail fraud in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California in Oakland, California, today. Both were charged in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in the Northern District of California on Nov. 19, 2014.

    “These defendants took turns paying others or being paid by others to not bid at foreclosure auctions, all so that the conspirators could buy properties at reduced prices,” said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “The defendants and their co-conspirators corrupted these auctions and deprived lenders and homeowners of auction proceeds that were rightfully theirs.”

    To date, 56 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. In addition, multi-count indictments are pending against 19 real estate investors that have been charged for their roles in bid-rigging and fraud schemes at foreclosure auctions in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and San Francisco counties.

    According to court documents, Shiells and De Sanz agreed not to compete to purchase selected properties at public real estate foreclosure auctions, designated which conspirator would win the selected properties and refrained from bidding on the selected properties at the public auctions. This collusion began in Alameda County as early as June 2007; in Contra Costa County as July 2008; and in San Francisco County as early as November 2008. The deals continued until approximately January 2011.

    Both Shiells and De Sanz were also charged with using the mail to carry out the schemes to fraudulently acquire the titles to selected properties sold at public auctions in Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco counties, to make and receive payoffs and to divert money to co-conspirators that would have otherwise gone to mortgage holders and other beneficiaries.

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