Feds produce millions of pages of evidence in Palm Beach County bid-rigging bust


Talk about the wheels of justice turning quickly: The federal government in early November charged three Palm Beach County real estate investors with rigging bids at foreclosure auctions. Their trial is scheduled for early January.

However, the case might not proceed quite that fast. The feds on Friday said they released “a substantial production” of evidence to defense attorneys for Christopher Graeve, Stuart Hankin and Avi Stern.

The federal data dump includes more than 1.8 million documents and more than 3.35 million pages of searchable electronic files. The defense lawyers say they won’t be ready for trial until they’ve had a chance to study the millions of pages of documents.

From January 2012 until June 2015, prosecutors say, the three investors engaged in a “conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition by rigging bids and allocating the market for properties sold during online property foreclosure auctions in Palm Beach County.” 

According to the indictment, the three investors agreed not to bid against each other on certain properties or in certain neighbhorhoods.

Each faces one count of conspiracy to restrain trade, a felony that carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. The three men appeared in federal court in West Palm Beach in mid-November to surrender their passports and promise to post bond.

Because the U.S. Attorney’s Office wins convictions in more than 90 percent of the cases it brings, defendants often plead guilty before going to trial. But these charges seem destined for a full hearing.

A status report filed Friday said, “This case is not likely to be resolved by a guilty plea.”

The indictment offers no details about the number of homes the three bought, how much they paid or how much their actions might have pushed down prices.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in

Florida considers ending fee to freeze credit as Equifax leads gripes
Florida considers ending fee to freeze credit as Equifax leads gripes

Florida officials including two Cabinet officers want to whack a $10 fee to freeze your credit report after hacked credit reporting agency Equifax emerged as the state’s most complained-about company in 2017 in beefs to the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Indiana, South Carolina, Maine and North Carolina “do not charge this...
Government shutdown: Veterans exchange remains open
Government shutdown: Veterans exchange remains open

A tax-free online shopping exchange opened to veterans last fall including more  than 91,000 in Palm Beach County will remain open during the government shutdown, officials said Saturday. Former US Air Force pilot Gregg Matous holds a photograph of himself with a U-2 spy plane at his home in Jupiter. (Richard Graulich...
Owners do not get an official vote at board meetings

Question: During an HOA board meeting, is it common practice to allow the members in the audience to have a vote on board business? I know the members are allowed to speak if recognized, but going through our bylaws and the Florida statues I have found nothing pertaining to members having a vote along with the board. It seems to me that the board was...
Billionaire developer Jeff Greene sues gossip site for libel
Billionaire developer Jeff Greene sues gossip site for libel

Contending that an article on the GossipExtra website was libelous, billionaire developer Jeff Greene has sued gossip columnist Jose Lambiet. In a suit filed this month in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, Greene calls Lambiet’s reporting “grossly inadequate.” Greene’s claim focuses on a Dec. 3 piece titled, “Is Billionaire...
Amazon raises monthly Prime membership rate
Amazon raises monthly Prime membership rate

The monthly membership fee for Amazon Prime rose Friday from $10.99 to $12.99. Company officials said the annual membership will remain at $99 dollars. Monthly customers do not get access to Amazon Video, which costs $8.99 a month. The last Prime subscription hike came in 2014, when Amazon increased its yearly membership from $79 to $99. The e-commerce...
More Stories