DOJ: Bid Rigging at Auctions: The Achilles Heal of the Securitization Scam

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Editor’s Comment and Opinion: Frankly I think bid rigging is the rule rather than the exception. The number of “investors” popping up and buying these properties at auction, and the question of whether they are getting their financing from the bank or servicer that illegally foreclosed is still open. Skyline is one of the companies of interest that I am investigating.

Livinglies is now offering investigation services from a licensed private investigator to show the connection between the “bidder” and the “beneficiary” or “mortgagee” pretending to be the creditor. Call 520-405-1688 for more details.

The biggest part of the rigging comes from the “credit bid” that the “trustee” (actually some low-paid employee supposedly “representing” the trustee) is used to create an aura of plausible deniability.

The trustee, often at an auction that doesn’t actually take place, simply sits in his office and signs papers to the effect that he received a bid from XYZ and it was accepted and then issues a deed on foreclosure that carries with it a presumption of validity — even though the “Credit bid” was not submitted by a creditor or, in many cases, where the “creditor” has not shown any evidence to the “substitute trustee” that it is owed any money from the borrower.

If you scratch the surface you will find that the bidder neither funded nor ever paid to buy the loan, so where is the receivable entitling them to submit a credit bid, according to statute?

The case below shows the kind of penalty that SHOULD apply to everyone involved in bid rigging. But if things continue to go the way they are already headed, these guys are thrown under the bus as the sacrifice and it is made to look like this is an isolated incident instead of the rule.

If drill down instead of scratching you will find in many cases that the amount of money being demanded is far higher than the amount due to any creditor, whoever they are, because of the receipt of insurance and bailouts that explicitly waive the right to go after the borrower. How the banks and Master servicers received that insurance and bailout money while the investors were taking the loss has been the subject of many previous articles.

Investor pleads guilty of bid rigging at foreclosure auctions
November 02, 2012, 05:00 AM By Michelle Durand Daily Journal Staff
A real estate investor pleaded guilty yesterday to bid rigging at public foreclosure auctions in San Mateo and San Francisco counties over a two-year span, according to the Department of Justice.Norman Montalvo, of Concord, conspired with others at the auctions, including the one held outside the Redwood City courthouse, to designate a winning bidder for selected properties rather than compete against each other, according to court documents.

Those involved kept the wining price low which, in turn, federal prosecutors say, damaged the real estate market and defrauded those expecting a level playing field.

The investors “illegally restrained competition … by falsely creating the appearance of unfettered bidding while they were secretly colluding to suppress prices,” said Scott D. Hammond, deputy assistant attorney general of the antitrust division, in an announcement of Montalvo’s plea.

Montalvo was also charged with conspiring to use the mail to carry out the scheme, make and receive payoffs and divert co-conspirators money that would have otherwise gone to mortgage holders and others.

When property is auctioned, the proceeds pay off the mortgage and debt with any remaining money going to the homeowner. Squelching competitive bids limits how much money is available for both.

Montalvo is accused of committing bid rigging and mail fraud in San Mateo and San Francisco counties as early as June 2008 until approximately September 2010. He is the 26th person to plead guilty or agree to plead guilty as part of the DOJ’s ongoing antitrust investigation at public real estate auctions in Northern California, including those in San Mateo County.

Montalvo’s plea is proof the effort is working, said Joel Moss, acting special agent in charge of the FBI’s San Francisco division.

“Criminals who take advantage of the real estate auction process will be brought to justice,” he said in a prepared statement.

Montalvo faces up to a decade in federal prison and $1 million fine for violating the antitrust law known as the Sherman Act and up to 30 years and a similar fine for each count of conspiring to commit mail fraud. The government can also go after the proceeds made by the fraud.

Anyone with information about bid rigging or fraud related to public real estate foreclosure auctions should contact the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office at (415) 436-6660 or visit or call the FBI tip line at (415) 553-7400.

Michelle Durand can be reached by email: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.

Discussion Started Between Livinglies and AZ Attorney General Tom Horne

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Editor’s Comment:

Dear Kathleen,

Thank you very much for taking my call this morning.

The question that Neil F. Garfield, Esq. had asked AZ Attorney General Tom Horne at Darrell Blomberg’s meeting was:

Why is the Arizona Attorney General not prosecuting the banks and servicers for corruption and racketeering by submitting false credit bids from non-creditors at foreclosure auctions?

Please feel free to browse Mr. Garfield’s web blog, as you may find much of the research and many of the articles to be relevant and of interest.

Mr. Garfield wishes the following comments and observations to be added, in order to clarify the question being asked.

It should probably be noted that in my own research and from the research from at least two dozen other lawyers whose practice concentrates in real property and foreclosures have all reached the same conclusion.  The submission of a credit bid by a stranger to the transaction is a fraudulent act.  A credit bid is only permissible in the event that the party seeking to offer the bid meets the following criteria:

1.  The homeowner borrower owes money to the alleged creditor

2.  The money that is owed to the alleged creditor arises out of a transaction in which the homeowner borrower agreed to the power of sale regarding that debt

3.  Any other creditor would be as much a stranger to the transaction as a non-creditor

Our group is also in agreement that:

4.  Acceptance of the credit bid is an ultra vires act.

5.  The deed issued in foreclosure under such circumstances is a wild deed requiring the title registrar to attach a statement from the office of the title registrar (for example Helen Purcell) stating that the deed does not meet the requirements of statute and therefore does not meet the requirements for recording.

6.  In the event that nobody else is permitted to bid, the auction violates Arizona statutes.

And we arrived at the following conclusions:

7.  In the event that there is no cash bid and the only “bid” was accepted as a cash bid from either a non-creditor or a creditor whose debt is not secured by the power of sale, no sale has legally occurred.

8.  The applicable statutes preventing the corruption of the title chain by such illegal means include the filing of false documents, grand theft, and evasion of the payment of required fees.

9.  This phenomenon is extremely wide spread and based upon surveys conducted by our office and dozens of other offices (including an independent audit of the title registry of San Francisco county) strongly suggest that the vast majority of foreclosures in Arizona resulted in illegal auctions, illegal acceptance of a bid, and illegal issuance of a deed on foreclosure-which resulted in many cases in illegal evictions.

10.  Federal and State-equivalent RICO may also apply, as well as Federal mail fraud which should be referred to the US Attorney.


It should also be noted that all the same attorneys agreed that the use of an instrument called “Substitution of Trustee” was improper in most cases in that it removed a trustee owing a duty to both the debtor and the creditor and replaced the old trustee with an entity owned or controlled by the creditor.

This is the equivalent of allowing the creditor to appoint itself as Trustee.

In virtually all cases in which a securitization claim was involved in the attempted foreclosure the Substitution of Trustee was used exactly in the manner described in this paragraph.  This method of applying the powers set forth in the Deed of Trust is obviously unconstitutional as applied.

Constitutional scholars agree that the legislature has wide discretion in substituting one form of due process for another.  In this case, non-judicial sale was permitted on the premise that an independent trustee would exercise the ministerial duties of what had previously been a burden on the judiciary.

However, the ability of any creditor or non-creditor to claim the status of being the successor payee on a promissory note, being the secured party on the Deed of Trust, and having the right to substitute trustees does not confer on such a party the right to appoint itself as the trustee, auctioneer, and signatory on the Deed upon foreclosure nor to have submitted a credit bid.

We are very interested in your reply.  If your office has any cogent reasons for disagreement with the above analysis, we would like to “hear back from you” as you promised at Mr. Blomberg’s meeting 22 days ago.  We would encourage you to stay in touch with Mr. Blomberg or myself with regard to your progress in this matter in as much as we are considering a constitutional challenge not to the statute, but to the application of the statute on the above stated grounds.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Neil F Garfield esq

licensed in Florida #229318

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