Francis Alvarez, owner of a large freight forwarding company, pleaded guilty to an antitrust charge for her role in a multi-year, nationwide conspiracy to fix prices for international freight forwarding services, the Department of Justice announced today.
According to a one-count felony charge filed in the Southern District of Florida in Miami, Florida, Alvarez and her co-conspirators agreed to fix, raise and maintain prices for freight forwarding services provided in the United States and elsewhere from at least as early as September 2010 until at least August 2014. Alvarez is president and owner of a Houston-based freight forwarding company.
In addition to admitting to participating in this conspiracy, Alvarez has agreed to pay a criminal fine and cooperate with the ongoing investigation. The terms of the plea agreement are subject to approval of the court. Alvarez will be sentenced at a later date.
Alvarez is the third individual to face charges for participating in this conspiracy. Two of Alvarez’s co-conspirators, Roberto Dip and Jason Handal, were charged and pleaded guilty in November 2018. In June 2019, Dip and Handal were sentenced to eighteen- and fifteen-month prison terms, respectively, for their roles in the scheme.
“Alvarez and her co-conspirators cheated American consumers shipping goods to Honduras by conspiring to raise prices and pocket the proceeds of their illegal scheme,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division. “The Antitrust Division is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to protect those consumers and restore integrity to this market.”
“This is an example of businesses and their executives manipulating commerce and deceiving the American public for their own financial gain,” said Special Agent in Charge Bryan A. Vorndran of the FBI’s New Orleans Office. “Francis Alvarez and her co-conspirators violated U.S. antitrust laws. Using their knowledge and experience in the freight-forwarding trade, they exploited consumers through an elaborate price-fixing scheme. The FBI, along with our partners at the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, remain committed to upholding the Constitution and protecting consumers against fraud, deceit and illegal activity.”
Freight forwarders arrange for and manage the shipment of goods, including by receiving, packaging and otherwise preparing cargo destined for international ocean shipment.
Alvarez is charged with price fixing in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals. The maximum fine for an individual may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.
The ongoing investigation into price fixing in the international freight forwarding industry is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal I Section and the FBI’s New Orleans Field Office. Anyone with information in connection with this investigation is urged to call the Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal I Section at 202-307-6694, visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html or call the FBI tip line at 415-553-7400.