News

Danville man pleads guilty in real estate bid rigging scheme

Terms of plea agreement not released

A Danville man pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to one felony count of bid rigging for his part in a scheme to illegally manipulate public real estate foreclosure auctions in Alameda County, U.S. Department of Justice officials said Thursday.

Stephan Florida was charged along with four other men in a 2014 federal grand jury indictment in U.S. District Court in Oakland. The terms of Florida's plea agreement were not released.

All the defendants are accused of attending auctions between May 2008 and December 2010 while engaged in a secret agreement to refrain from bidding against each other on hundreds of foreclosed properties, according to the Justice Department.

They would instead allegedly designate a winning bidder from amongst themselves to acquire pre-selected properties.

Those who refrained from bidding allegedly received a payoff, and then the men held additional, private auctions known as "rounds" to determine the payoff amounts and who would keep the selected properties, according to the original indictment.

In addition to Florida, federal prosecutors initially charged Robert Rasheed, John Berry, Refugio Diaz and Alvin Florida Jr. with bid rigging and mail fraud in connection with the case, but the mail fraud charges have since been dismissed. Each bid-rigging charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine, court records show.

Their trial is scheduled for Oct. 31 in the courtroom of Chief U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton in Oakland, according to court filings.

— Bay City News Service

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