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An Alabama real estate investor was sentenced on Monday, April 10, 2017, to serve 12 months and a day in prison for his role in a bid-rigging conspiracy and a fraud scheme related to public real estate foreclosure auctions in Mobile, Alabama, the Department of Justice announced.
Oscar Celso Anez pleaded guilty to bid rigging and conspiracy to commit mail fraud in the Southern District of Alabama on June 14, 2016. In addition to a term of imprisonment, Senior U.S. District Court Judge Callie V.S. Granade also ordered Anez to pay $343,561 in restitution.
Between March 2002 and November 2010, Anez conspired with others not to compete for selected foreclosure properties at public auctions in order to obtain the properties at artificially suppressed auction prices. In addition, Anez and his co-conspirators held secret, second auctions for rigged foreclosure properties. The winner of the second auction obtained title to the property and made payoffs to co-conspirators. The money that the conspirators paid to one another would have gone to mortgage holders, homeowners and others with a legal interest in the property.
"The Court’s sentence holds Oscar Anez accountable for his major role in carrying out these schemes and will serve as a strong deterrent to others who are considering violating federal laws that prohibit anticompetitive conduct," said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brent Snyder of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. "To date, fifteen defendants have been prosecuted and more than $1 million in restitution has been ordered by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama."
"Fraud and bid-rigging have no place in this community," said Acting U.S. Attorney Steve Butler of the Southern District of Alabama. "This sentence should serve as a reminder that violations of federal anti-trust laws will be actively investigated and prosecuted in the Southern District of Alabama."
"The FBI remains dedicated to working with our law enforcement partners to eliminate this type of fraud," said Special Agent in Charge Robert F. Lasky of the FBI’s Mobile Field Office.
The sentencing of Anez is a result of an ongoing investigation that is being conducted by the Washington Criminal II Section of the Antitrust Division and the Mobile Field Office of the FBI, with substantial assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Alabama. Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to public real estate foreclosure auctions should contact the Washington Criminal II Section of the Antitrust Division at 202-598-4000.