Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pleas Entered In Mobile Foreclosure Sale Bid-Rigging Racket; Sentencing Delayed As Pair Agree To 'Sing' In Continuing Probe

In Mobile, Alabama, the Press Register reports:

  • Two real estate investors pleaded guilty [...] to federal bid-rigging charges accusing them of manipulating auctions of foreclosed properties.

  • According to their plea agreements, Harold H. Buchman and the company he co-owned, M&B Builders, conspired with Allen K. French and others to suppress bids at foreclosure auctions. The conspiracy dated to May 2001 and lasted until at least March of last year, according to court records.

  • The plea bargain calls for Buchman to serve 6 months in jail, pay a $21,141 fine and make at least $30,000 in restitution for violating the Sherman antitrust act. He also pleaded guilty on behalf of his company to the antitrust violation, as well as attempted mail fraud conspiracy. The firm will pay a $250,000 fine and restitution in the amount of at least $18,345.20, if U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade accepts the recommendation in the plea agreement.

  • French, meanwhile, could be eligible for probation for the antitrust violation. He agreed to pay a $20,000 fine and at least $23,000 in restitution.

  • Prosecutors asked for at least 6 months before sentencing so that the defendants can complete their cooperating in the ongoing probe.(1)It’s obvious we’re here today because he has cooperated, and I would say, has cooperated fully,” said Buchman’s attorney, Donald Briskman.

For more, see Mobile real estate investors plead guilty to manipulating foreclosure auctions.

Go here for other posts & links on bid rigging at foreclosure and other real estate-related auctions.

Go here for links to more from the U.S. Justice Department on bid-rigging prosecutions, generally.

(1) The only question remaining is how many bodies this duo 'throws under the bus' as part of earning their seemingly light prison sentences:

  • "When a conspiracy is exposed by an arrest or execution of search warrants, soon-to-be defendants know that the first one to "belly up" and tell what he knows receives the best deal. The pressure is to bargain and bargain early, even if an indictment has not been filed." United States v. Moody, 206 F.3d 609, 617 (6th Cir. 2000) (Wiseman, J., concurring) (referring to the not-uncommon 'race to the courthouse' that breaks out among participants in an uncovered criminal conspiracy).

The defendants, at least implicitly, have acknowledged that their 'arrangement' at the foreclosure sales was not an innocent, lawful joint bidding endeavor. See Illegal Bid Rigging Racket? Or Mere Innocent 'Joint Bidding' Arrangement?

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