A Georgia real estate investor pleaded guilty today for his role in conspiracies to rig bids and commit mail fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Fulton and DeKalb counties, Georgia.
Morris Podber, a Georgia real estate investor, pleaded guilty for his role in conspiracies to rig bids and commit mail fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Fulton and DeKalb counties, Georgia. Podber admitted that he conspired with others not to bid against one another at public real estate foreclosure auctions on selected properties. After the public foreclosure auctions, Podber admitted that he and his co-conspirators would divvy up the targeted properties in private side auctions, open only to the conspirators. Podber admitted to conspiring to use the mail to carry out their fraud, which included making and receiving payoffs and diverting money to co-conspirators that should have gone to the mortgage holders and others.
“This is the ninth real estate investor held accountable for bid rigging at public foreclosure auctions in Georgia,” said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “We will continue to root out anticompetitive conduct at foreclosure auctions and obtain justice for homeowners and lenders.”
According to documents filed with the court, the purpose of the conspiracies was to suppress and restrain competition and divert money to the conspirators that otherwise would have gone to pay off the mortgage and other holders of debt secured by the properties, and, in some cases, the defaulting homeowner. Podber admitted to participating in a conspiracy in Fulton County, Georgia, from July 2005 until August 2010; and to participating in a conspiracy in DeKalb County from October 2006 to August 2011.
“Incidents of bid rigging at public real estate auctions continue to be an issue in Georgia and elsewhere in the United States, and the FBI would like to remind the public that such matters are violations of federal law,” said Special Agent in Charge J. Britt Johnson of the FBI’s Atlanta Field Office. “The FBI will continue to work with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division in identifying, investigating and prosecuting those individuals engaged in such activities.”
The ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal II Section, the FBI’s Atlanta Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Georgia. Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to public real estate foreclosure auctions should contact the Washington Criminal II Section of the Antitrust Division at 202-598-4000, call the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at 888-647-3258 or visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.htm.