An Alabama real estate investor has agreed to plead guilty and to serve prison time for his role in conspiracies to rig bids and commit mail fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in southern Alabama.
Lawrence B. Stacy of Mobile, Alabama was charged with one count of bid rigging and one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Pending approval of the plea agreement, Stacy will serve six months in prison, pay a $10,000 fine, and cooperate with authorities' continuing investigation.
Stacy conspired with others not to bid against one another at public real estate foreclosure auctions in southern Alabama in a conspiracy that authorities say lasted from at least 2001 to 2010. Conspiracy members would designate a bidder for each target property at the public foreclosure auctions. The designated bidder would buy a target property without competition from the other conspiracy members. The conspirators would then 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 difference in price between the rigged bid at the public auction and the competitive bid at the secret auction was "profit" that was split among the conspiracy members.
Bid rigging at public foreclosure auctions violates the Sherman Antitrust Act, and carries possible prison sentences of up to ten years in prison and fines up to $1 million for each violation.
Stacy participated in the bid rigging conspiracy from at least as early as May 2002 until at least January 2007, according to authorities.
Several other conspiracy members have already been convicted in the southern Alabama foreclosure bid rigging scheme. Last October, investors Allen K. French and Harold H. Buchman pled guilty to bid rigging charges in the scheme. In December, another investor, Bobby Threlkeld Jr., of Mobile, agreed to plead guilty to one count of bid rigging in relation to charges that he participated in the scheme from 2001 to 2006.