Two Kentucky real estate professionals pleaded guilty today for their roles in a conspiracy to rig bids at an estate auction for farmland and timber rights.
According to a plea agreement filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, Barry Dyer and Mackie Shelton pleaded guilty to conspiring with others to rig bids at a 2018 auction for hundreds of acres of farmland and a tract of timber rights. Dyer and Shelton demanded and accepted a $40,000 payoff from competing auction participants to stop bidding, artificially suppressing the sales price of the farmland.
“The farming industry is vital to the nation’s economy and relies on competitive pricing for the land where crops are grown. Today’s guilty pleas help ensure the integrity of farmland auctions,” said Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “With support from our law enforcement partners, the Antitrust Division will continue to hold accountable anyone who conspires to line their own pockets at the expense of this competitive process.”
“American farmers are part of the backbone of our country’s economy, and they deserve to run their businesses in a fair market, untainted by corruption,” said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “The FBI and our law enforcement partners are dedicated to protecting the farming industry from bid rigging and other schemes that undermine the success of others and the spirit of competition.”
Dyer and Shelton were charged with a single-count violation of the Sherman Act. A criminal violation of the Sherman Act carries a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine. A federal district court judge will determine the defendants’ sentences after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The case was investigated and prosecuted by the Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal I Section, with the assistance of the FBI’s International Corruption Unit and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Kentucky. Anyone with information in connection with this investigation should contact the Antitrust Division’s Complaint Center at 888-647-3258, or visit http://www.justice.gov/atr/report-violations.