A federal jury yesterday convicted four real estate investors for their roles in a conspiracy to rig bids at public real estate foreclosure auctions held in Alameda County, California, the Department of Justice announced.
After a two-week trial, the jury convicted Alvin Florida Jr., Robert Alhashash Rasheed, John Lee Berry III and Refugio Diaz of one count each of conspiring to rig bids at foreclosure auctions between May 2008 and December 2010. The four defendants were charged in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in the Northern District of California on November 19, 2014.
The evidence at trial showed that the defendants conspired with others to rig bids to obtain hundreds of properties sold at foreclosure auctions in Alameda County. The conspirators designated the winning bidders to obtain selected properties at the public auctions, and negotiated payoffs amongst themselves in return for not competing. They then held second, private auctions at or near the courthouse steps where the public auctions were held, awarding the properties to conspirators who submitted the highest bids.
In addition to yesterday’s convictions, over fifty individuals have pleaded guilty to criminal charges as a result of the department’s ongoing antitrust investigations into bid rigging at public foreclosure auctions in Northern California. Indictments are pending against several other real estate investors who participated in the conspiracy.
These convictions are the latest charges filed by the department in its ongoing investigation into bid rigging 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, in connection with the president’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.
The president established the task force 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 fiscal year 2009, the Justice Department has filed over 18,000 financial fraud cases against more than 25,000 defendants.