Three Georgia real estate investors pleaded guilty today for their roles in bid-rigging and fraud conspiracies committed at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Georgia, the Department of Justice announced today.
Jeffrey Wayne Brock, David Wallace “Chuck” Doughty, and Stanley Ralph Sullivan each admitted that they agreed to rig auctions of foreclosed homes in Cobb County from June 2007 until January 2012. According to court documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Brock, Doughty, Sullivan and their co-conspirators agreed not to compete for the purchase of selected foreclosed homes so that they could win the auctions for those homes with artificially low bids.
The winning bidders then made payoffs to conspirators who had refrained from bidding against them. As a result, conspirators profited from money that otherwise would have gone to mortgage holders and other secured debt holders, and in some cases, to the owners of the foreclosed homes.
“These defendants conspired to corrupt foreclosure auctions that should have benefited lenders and homeowners,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Renata Hesse, head of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “The Antitrust Division will continue to work with our colleagues at the FBI to pursue those who took advantage of disruption caused by the financial crisis to line their own pockets.”
“Foreclosure auction fraud in Georgia remains a focus for the FBI investigators and federal prosecutors within the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice,” said Special Agent in Charge J. Britt Johnson of the FBI’s Atlanta Division. “By the very nature of this criminal act, the bank, and more importantly, the home owner in financial distress, are the victims that these federal laws were created to protect. The FBI will continue to provide investigative assets toward these matters in order to keep the level playing field that the law intended regarding these auctions.”
Including the individuals pleading today, twenty defendants have been charged in connection with the department’s ongoing investigation into bid rigging and fraudulent schemes involving real estate foreclosure auctions in the Atlanta area. Eighteen of those have either pleaded guilty or agree to plead guilty.