Robert M. Brannon, Laurel, Mississippi, and his son, Jason R. Brannon, Mobile, Alabama, both real estate investors, were sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama in Mobile, for their participation in conspiracies to rig bids and commit mail fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in southern Alabama.
The defendants were each sentenced to serve 20 months in prison for their participation in the conspiracies. The Brannons and their Mobile-based company, J&R Properties LLC, were ordered to pay $21,983 in restitution to the victims of the crime.
On Dec. 12, 2012, the Brannons and their company, pleaded guilty to an indictment originally returned on June 28, 2012, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, charging each of them with one count of bid rigging and one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. According to court documents, the Brannons and their company conspired with others not to bid against one another at public real estate foreclosure auctions in southern Alabama. After a designated bidder bought a property at a public auction, which typically takes place at the county courthouse, the conspirators would generally hold a secret, second auction, at which each participant would bid the amount above the public auction price he or she was willing to pay. The highest bidder at the secret, second auction won the property.
The indictment also charged the Brannons and their company with conspiring to use the U.S. mail to carry out a fraudulent scheme to acquire title to rigged foreclosure properties sold at public auctions at artificially suppressed prices; to make payoffs to and to receive payoffs from co-conspirators; and to cause financial institutions, homeowners and others with a legal interest in rigged foreclosure properties to receive less than the competitive price for the properties. The indictment charged the Brannons and their company with participating in the bid-rigging and mail fraud conspiracies from as early as October 2004 until at least August 2007.
“The success of this investigation represents the FBI’s staunch commitment to target and investigate those who are willing to abuse and exploit illegal advantages during this legal process for personal gain at the expense of suffering citizens and businesses,” said Stephen E. Richardson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Mobile Division.
“Today’s sentences send a strong message that the Antitrust Division will continue to hold individuals and companies accountable for their anticompetitive conduct,” said Bill Baer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “Whether on a local, national or international scale, bid rigging and fraud subvert the competitive process and the division will remain vigilant in vigorously pursuing those who violate the antitrust laws for their own financial enrichment.”