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California Real Estate Investor Pleads Guilty to Rigging Bids at Foreclosure Auctions

Allegedly one co-conspirator would bid at a public auction. Then they held a second, private auction and made payoffs to one another

A California man has plead guilty to rigging bids at public foreclosure auctions, federal court officials announced this week.

Yama Marifat was indicted for conspiring with other real estate investors to rig bids when purchasing selected properties at foreclosure auctions in San Joaquin County between April 2009 and October 2009, according to court documents filed in Sacramento. His trial was scheduled to begin on August 17.

The one-count indictment alleges Marifat and his co-conspirators carried out the conspiracy by agreeing not to bid against each other on selected properties. Instead, they designated one co-conspirator to bid at the public auction, then held a second, private auction and made payoffs to one another, federal court officials said.

Marifat is the 11th individual to plead guilty in the investigation of fraud and bid rigging at real estate auctions in San Joaquin County, said officials from the Department of Justice, noting that their efforts to prosecute bid rigging and fraud at foreclosure auctions across the country have resulted in charges against 140 individuals, including 124 guilty pleas and 12 individuals convicted at trial.  

“Real estate investors who take advantage of the foreclosure process to line their own pockets will be held accountable,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Richard A. Powers of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “The defendant’s guilty plea is a testament to our persistence and the strong case built by the division’s talented prosecutors, paralegals and staff, along with our partners at the FBI.”

A criminal violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $1 million criminal fine, said DOJ officials. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.


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