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From Antitrust Law Daily, July 25, 2016

Another guilty plea, another charge in Georgia real estate auction bidding probe

By Jeffrey May, J.D.

A Georgia real estate investor who was charged last month for rigging bids at real estate foreclosure auctions has pleaded guilty to conspiring to rig bids and conspiring to commit bank fraud, the Department of Justice Antitrust Division announced today. The plea deal involving James R. Patterson Jr. follows a new charge filed just last week against real estate investor Christopher Anderson in the ongoing investigation (U.S. v. Patterson, Case 1:16-cr-00196-TWT; U.S. v. Anderson, Case 1:16-cr-258-WSD).

Patterson was charged on June 8 in a two-count information with conspiring to rig bids at foreclosure auctions in Georgia's Gwinnett County. He also was charged with conspiring to commit bank fraud. According to the Justice Department, Patterson participated in the challenged conduct from May 2007 until November 2011.

Patterson has now admitted to agreeing with co-conspirators 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 Justice Department announced. The winning bidders then paid off the conspirators who had refrained from bidding against them, it was noted. The terms of a plea agreement were not disclosed.

Latest charge. According to today’s Justice Department announcement, 22 defendants have been charged in connection with the government’s ongoing antitrust investigation. The filing against Anderson is the latest in the probe. On July 20, Anderson was accused of conspiring to fix bids at foreclosure auctions in Georgia’s Fulton and DeKalb counties. Anderson allegedly engaged in the conduct in Fulton County between December 4, 2007, and October 4, 2011, and in DeKalb County between September 1, 2009, and November 1, 2011. Anderson also was charged with participating in related conspiracies to commit mail fraud during the same periods.

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