A Georgia real estate investor pleaded guilty for conspiring to rig bids at real estate foreclosure auctions in Fulton and DeKalb counties in Georgia.
According to an announcement from the Department of Justice, Morris Podber admitted that he conspired with other real estate investors to not bid against each other in public foreclosure auctions on certain properties.
After the foreclosure auctions closed, Podmer and his co-conspirators would then hold private auctions amongst themselves for the targeted properties.
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.
Podmer admitted to participating in the bid rigging conspiracy in Fulton County from July 2005 until Aug. 2010 and to participating in a similar conspiracy in DeKalb County from Oct. 2006 to Aug. 2011.
“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.”
Podber also admitted to conspiring to use the mail to carry out the fraud, which included making and receiving payoffs and diverting money to co-conspirators that should have gone to the mortgage holders and others.
In addition to his guilty plea for bid rigging, Podber also pleaded guilty for mail fraud.
“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,” Johnson added.