WASHINGTON – (RealEstateRama) — A federal grand jury in Sacramento returned an indictment yesterday charging a California real estate investor with bid rigging at public real estate foreclosure auctions, the Department of Justice announced.
Real estate investor Yama Marifat has been charged with conspiring with other real estate investors to rig bids when purchasing selected properties at foreclosure auctions in San Joaquin County, California, beginning in or about April 2009 and continuing until in or about October 2009.
The indictment, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, alleges that Marifat and co-conspirators carried out the conspiracy by agreeing not to bid against each other on selected properties. Instead of bidding against one another, they designated one conspirator to bid at the public auction, then held second, private auctions and made payoffs to each other. An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
“Bid rigging subverts the competitive process, undermines consumers’ confidence in the market, and will not be tolerated,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Department of Justice Antitrust Division. “The Division remains committed to prosecuting the individuals who commit these crimes.”
Yesterday’s indictment carries a maximum penalty of ten years in prison and a one million dollar fine. 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.
This case is part of an ongoing investigation of fraud and bidding irregularities in certain real estate auctions in San Joaquin County. As a result of this ongoing investigation, 12 individuals have pleaded guilty or been convicted in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. Ten of these individuals have been sentenced to serve prison terms ranging from five to eight months. In addition, the defendants have been ordered to pay a total of more than six million dollars in criminal fines and restitution.
The investigation is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco office and the FBI’s Sacramento Division. Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to real estate foreclosure auctions should contact the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco office at 415-394-5300, visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html, or contact the FBI’s Sacramento Division at 916-481-9110