Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, January 4, 2016
Two Georgia Real Estate Investors Plead Guilty to Rigging Bids at Public Home Foreclosure Auctions
The 11th and 12th Defendants Charged in Ongoing Investigation
Two Georgia real estate investors pleaded guilty today for their roles in bid-rigging and mail fraud conspiracies at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Georgia. Paul Chen and Ira Eisenberg each admitted that they agreed not to bid against others at certain public real estate foreclosure auctions and that they conspired to defraud mortgage holders and homeowners using the mail system.
“These individuals unlawfully rigged home foreclosure auctions, and then used payoffs and private side auctions to divide among themselves money that should have gone to mortgage holders and homeowners,” said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “Together with our FBI colleagues, the division will bring to justice unscrupulous investors who scheme to rob unsuspecting mortgage holders and homeowners.”
“Incidents of bid rigging at public real estate auctions continue to be an issue in Georgia and elsewhere in the United States, and the FBI would like to remind the public that such matters are violations of federal law,” said Special Agent in Charge J. Britt Johnson of the FBI’s Atlanta Field Office. “The FBI will continue to work with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division in identifying, investigating and prosecuting those individuals engaged in such activities.”
Chen admitted to participating in the conspiracy in Fulton County, Georgia, from as early as February 2009 until at least March 2010, and Eisenberg admitted to participating from as early as August 2009 until at least February 2011. Additionally, Chen admitted to participating in the DeKalb County, Georgia, conspiracy from as early as November 2009 until at least September 2011. According to documents filed with the court, the purpose of the conspiracies was to suppress and restrain competition and divert money to the conspirators that otherwise would have gone to pay off the mortgage and other holders of debt secured by the properties and, in some cases, the defaulting homeowner.
These charges have been filed as a result of the ongoing investigation being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal II Section, the FBI’s Atlanta Division, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Georgia, in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, and state and local partners, it is the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets; and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Since fiscal year 2009, the Justice Department has filed over 18,000 financial fraud cases against more than 25,000 defendants.