8 guilty pleas in FBI probe of bid rigging at Alabama foreclosure auctions

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Eight people and two companies have pleaded guilty in connection with an FBI investigation into alleged bid rigging at public real estate foreclosure auctions in southern Alabama, the Department of Justice said.

Prosecutors said Robert M. Brannon and his son Jason R. Brannon, and their Mobile-based company, J&R Properties LLC, conspired with others not to bid against one another at public real estate foreclosure auctions in southern Alabama from 2004 to 2007. After a designated bidder bought a property at a public auction the conspirators would hold a secret, second auction, prosecutors said.

The Brannons were also charged with conspiring to use the U.S. mail to carry out a fraudulent scheme to acquire title to rigged foreclosure properties sold at public auctions at artificially suppressed prices; to make payoffs to and to receive payoffs from co-conspirators; and to cause financial institutions, homeowners and others with a legal interest in rigged foreclosure properties to receive less than the competitive price for the properties.

The Brannons were each sentenced Monday to 20 months in prison for their participation in the conspiracies, and ordered to pay $21,983 in restitution to the victims of the crime. Source: justice.gov.