Three Contra Costa County real estate investors have agreed to plead guilty to charges that they took part in schemes to rig bids and commit mail fraud at foreclosure auctions for Bay Area homes, the U.S. Department of Justice has announced. Federal felony fraud charges were filed Thursday against Rudolph Silva of Concord, Leslie Gee of Danville and Pleasant Hill real estate investor Thomas Bishop in connection with the alleged conspiracies. Gee faced additional charges for his alleged involvement in similar crimes in Alameda County in 2009, justice department officials said.
If convicted on all counts, each defendant could face up to 30 years in prison and $2 million in fines, according to the department. The three real estate investors are among 43 people who have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty to charges stemming from the justice department and FBI investigations into bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California.
“The FBI and our partners have an obligation to investigate and pursue those who disrupt a free and fair marketplace,” FBI Special Agent in Charge David Johnson of the San Francisco Field office said. “We will continue to educate the public on the criminality of bid rigging at real estate foreclosure auctions.” According to court documents, between 2008 and 2011, all three participated in schemes to rig the bidding at real estate foreclosure auctions in Contra Costa County by agreeing not to bid against one another to obtain certain properties and instead to choose a winning bidder among a group of co-conspirators.
The three defendants are also accused of using the mail to fraudulently acquire the titles to Contra Costa properties up for sale at public auctions and to then make and receive payoffs and siphon money from the sale to co-conspirators that would have gone to mortgage lenders. In some cases, the conspirators also diverted money that would have gone to defaulting homeowners, justice department officials said.
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