Antitrust Law Daily Indictment against heir location service for allocating customers dismissed
Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Indictment against heir location service for allocating customers dismissed

By Jeffrey May, J.D.

The statute of limitations barred the prosecution of an heir location services provider and its co-owner for conspiring with a rival to allocate customers. The limitations period for a conspiracy to violate the antitrust laws was five years, and the alleged conduct in furtherance of the criminal purpose of the conspiracy ended more than eight years before the filing of the indictment in the case. Any conspiratorial agreement ceased to exist once the allocation of customers through “guidelines,” which governed the joint activity between the conspirators, ceased, and all that remained were administrative issues related to resolving the estates and payments resulting from the agreement. Rejected was the government’s argument the antitrust conspiracy continued into the five-year period prior to the indictment based on the continued administration work, including the recovery of monies for heirs and the payment of the firms themselves (U.S. v. Kemp & Associates Inc. , August 28, Sam, D.).

The federal district court in Salt Lake City not only granted the motion to dismiss the indictment as time-barred, but also upheld its earlier determination that the case was subject to rule of reason analysis. The court rejected the Justice Department’s contention that the decision to apply rule of reason analysis was clear error.

In finding the charge time-barred, the court explained that statutes of limitation “provide protections to a defendant’s right to a fair trial as over time it becomes difficult or impossible for defendants and prosecutors to present a complete and fair trial when evidence may become available or recollections fail.” The court also noted that the “limitations exist to ensure the government does not unreasonably delay in bringing a case.” Over the government’s contentions that the conduct continued into the limitations period, the court concluded that “routine, administrative consequences of a concluded allocation agreement” were not part of the conspiracy.

Underlying indictment. The moving defendants, Kemp & Associates Inc. and its co-owner and vice president—Daniel J. Mannix—were charged by way of a one-count indictment in August 2016. These defendants allegedly participated in the customer allocation conspiracy from September 1999 until January 2014. Kemp & Associates conspired with competitor Blake & Blake Genealogists, Inc., according to the government. Richard A. Blake Jr., the president of that Massachusetts-based heir location services provider was charged in January 2016 and agreed to plead guilty in the federal district court in Chicago.

Heir location firms identify people who may be entitled to an inheritance from the estate of someone who died without a will. The heir location firms then enter into agreements with those people to help secure their inheritances in exchange for a fee.

Earlier case. In addition to the cases against Kemp & Associates, Mannix, and Blake, the Justice Department also charged a California-based heir location services provider, Brandenburger & Davis, and the company's president and CEO, Bradley N. Davis, with conspiring to allocate customers in the market for heir location services. A one-count information was filed in the federal district court in Chicago in December 2015 against those defendants. Like Blake, they agreed to plead guilty to the charges.

This case is No. 2:16-cr-00403-DS.

Attorneys: Jacob J. Strain, U.S. Attorney’s Office, for United States. Devin M. Cain (Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello, PC) and James A. Mitchell (Ballard Spahr, LLP) for Kemp & Associates, Inc.

Companies: Kemp & Associates Inc.; Blake & Blake Genealogists, Inc.; Brandenburger & Davis

MainStory: TopStory Antitrust AntitrustDivisionNews UtahNews

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