California real estate investor pleads guilty to rigging bids at foreclosure auction
August 10, 2021 – A Californian pleaded guilty on August 7, 2021 to rigging bids at a foreclosure public auction.
According to court documents filed in Sacramento, Yama Marifat was indicted for conspiring with other real estate investors to rig bids when purchasing selected properties in foreclosure auctions in San Joaquin County, California, beginning in or about April 2009 and continuing until or about October 2009. The trial was scheduled to begin on August 17.
“Real estate investors who use the foreclosure process to line their pockets will be held accountable,” said Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard A. Powers of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “The accused’s guilty plea is a testament to our perseverance and the strength of the cases built by the talented prosecutors, paralegals and staff in the division, as well as our partners in the FBI.”
According to the one-count indictment, Marifat and his co-conspirators carried out the plot by agreeing not to bid against each other on selected properties. Instead, they appointed a co-conspirator to bid in the public auction, then held a second private auction and paid each other.
“Real estate fraud had a devastating impact on the regional economy during the previous recession,” said Special Agent in Charge Sean Ragan of the FBI’s field office in Sacramento. “This case illustrates the FBI’s commitment to work with our local, state and federal partners to identify and investigate crimes that affect the communities we serve to ensure that no crime goes unpunished and that public confidence in our financial and real estate systems is maintained. ”
Marifat is the 11e person to plead guilty in an investigation for fraud and bid-rigging at real estate auctions in San Joaquin County. Including Marifat, the division’s efforts to pursue bid-rigging and fraud at foreclosure auctions in parts of the country have resulted in charges against 140 people, including 124 guilty pleas and 12 people convicted at trial.
A criminal offense under the Sherman Antitrust Act carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a criminal fine of $ 1 million. The maximum fine can be increased to double the gain from the crime or double the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of these amounts is greater than the maximum fine provided by law. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering US sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.
The San Francisco office of the antitrust division is pursuing the case, which was investigated with help from the FBI field office in Sacramento. Anyone with information relating to this investigation should contact the Antitrust Division Complaints Center at (888) 647-3258 or visit http://www.justice.gov/atr/report-violations.
Source: MJ press release