By Jeffrey May, J.D.
A Department of Justice Antitrust Division investigation into anticompetitive behavior at real estate foreclosure auctions in Mississippi has apparently netted three more investors who participated in bid rigging activity. Following the entry of guilty pleas from two other investors in February, the Justice Department yesterday filed charges in the federal district court in Gulfport, Mississippi, against Kevin Moore, Chad Nichols, and Terry Tolar for their roles in the conspiracies. Guilty pleas are anticipated (U.S. v. Moore, Case No. 1:18-cr-00043-LG-RHW; U.S. v. Nichols, Case No. 1:18-cr-00044-LG-RHW; U.S. v. Tolar, Case No. 1:18-cr-00045-LG-RHW).
According to the charges, Moore, Nichols, and Tolar conspired with others to rig bids, designating a winning bidder to obtain selected properties at public real estate foreclosure auctions in the Southern District of Mississippi. Nichols alleged participated in the challenged conduct from approximately April 2010 to February 2015. The court documents allege that Tolar and Moore began participating in the conspiracy in January 2012 and continued as participants in the conspiracy until about March and April 2017, respectively.
Earlier guilty pleas. These latest charges follow earlier guilty pleas from Mississippi real estate investors Shannon and Jason Boykin. On February 15, 2018, the Justice Department announced that these individuals were the first two defendants to plead guilty in the ongoing Mississippi investigation. They admitted to participating in the conspiracy from approximately May 2012 through March 2017.
The Mississippi investigation is the latest probe into bid rigging at real estate auctions around the country. Since 2010, guilty pleas and convictions have resulted from investigations in Alabama, California, Georgia, and North Carolina.
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