STOCKTON, CA - Five men, including a Stockton grocery store operator, are charged in connection with a federal investigation involving bid rigging of foreclosed homes at public auctions in San Joaquin County.
A federal grand jury returned the indictment on December 7th, with charges that include bid rigging and conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Four of the five men made their first court appearances on Tuesday.
The names include: Wiley C. Chandler of Lodi, Andrew B. Katakis of Danville, Donald M. Parker of Valley Springs, Anthony Joachim of Stockton, and W. Theodore Longley of Roseville.
According to the indictment, Longley was an auctioneer at public real estate auctions in San Joaquin county and the other men purchased real estate at the public auctions.
According to the indictment, between September 2008 and
October 2009, the men "entered into and engaged in a combination and conspiracy to suppress and restrain competition by rigging bids to obtain selected properties offered at public auctions in San Joaquin County."
The men agreed not to publicly bid against each other then held private auctions amongst themselves and divided the profits, according to Assistant United States Attorney Russell Carlberg.
The defendants are accused of making more than $2.5 millon of fraud profits with hundreds of properties in San Joaquin County.
Wiley Chandler is the owner and operator of Curry's Warehouse Sales, a discount grocery store on the 1000 block of E. Bianchi Road in Stockton.
Andrew Katakis is the president and owner of California Equity Management Group, located on the 1100 block of 13th street in Modesto.
Federal agents got a warrant and searched Katakis' real estate company in late-September and removed computer files. At the time, a spokesman for the FBI said the search was confidential but the company was under investigation for some time.
On Tuesday, an employee at California Equity Management only said "no comment" and posted a sign on the door telling reporters to stay away from the property.
In a press release, United States Attorney Benjamin Wagner said, "Anticompetitive practices in real estate foreclosure auctions not only harm financial institutions, but drive down home values for other homeowners throughout the region. My office will continue to investigate and prosecute such conduct."
The indictments were part of an ongoing investigation in San Joaquin County. Eight people previously pleaded guilty to bid rigging at public foreclosure auctions under the same circumstances.
In federal court on Tuesday, three of the men were released on bond. However, Andrew Katakis remained in custody.
The U.S. Attorney's office is concerned about Katakis' behavior during the course of the investigation and also believe Katakis is a flight-risk because he has substantial assets and often travels abroad.
A warrant has been issued for Anthony Joachim.
If convicted of bid rigging, the men could face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The conspiracy to commit mail fraud carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.