SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/AP) — More than four dozen real estate speculators and two companies have been charged with illegally fixing foreclosure auctions in three states including California by bid-rigging.

Working in concert, the would-be buyers would appoint just one person to bid on each property on the auction block, thus securing the “winning” bid. Minutes after the official proceeding was over, they would then conduct an auction among themselves, often on the same courthouse steps. The difference in price would be divvied up among the conspirators.

Most cases originated in California, the state with the highest foreclosure rate during the financial crisis.

Several Alameda and San Francisco County real estate investors have pled guilty to bid-rigging and mail fraud. Among them were Peter McConough of Pleasanton. Michael Renquist of Livermore and Gilbert Chung of Burlingame.

Each is facing up to 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Nearly identical rings were also broken up in Raleigh, N.C., and Mobile, Ala.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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