Two more northern California real estate investors have agreed to plead guilty to their roles in foreclosure auction bid rigging conspiracies, joining nearly two dozen other defendants that have pleaded guilty in Northern California bid rigging schemes.
The latest to plead guilty to felony charges in the schemes are Lydia Fong and Matthew Worthing, both of San Francisco. Fong and Worthing participated in a bid rigging scheme at foreclosure auctions in San Francisco County between October 2009 and November 2010. Worthing participated in a bid rigging scheme in San Mateo County, California from September 2010 until January 2011.
Both also pled guilty to mail fraud charges, in addition to their guilty pleas for bid rigging.
In most foreclosure bid rigging schemes, participants in rigged foreclosure auction enter agreements with each other not to bid each other up on properties targeted by the group for purchase. Instead, one designated buyer from among the group will bid. Then, the conspiracy members will hold a second, competitive sale among themselves, and conspiracy members would pocket the difference in price.
“The collusion taking place at these auctions eliminated competition from the marketplace and allowed the conspirators to profit from the financial distress of others,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Sharis A. Pozen in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “The division will continue to pursue the perpetrators of these fraudulent schemes so they are held accountable for their actions.”
“Fraudulent bid rigging and other anticompetitive activities at foreclosure auctions by conspirators are illegal and unfair to individuals who are forced to sell and legitimate buyers looking to purchase homes in our communities,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephanie Douglas of the San Francisco Field Office. “We continue to work closely with our partners at the Antitrust Division to identify and bring to justice those who engage in this type of activity.”