A San Rafael real estate investor was charged Tuesday with bid rigging and mail fraud, federal authorities said.
Michael Navone was charged amid an ongoing investigation into fraudulent activity at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California. Prosecutors said they filed the charges in conjunction with a plea deal accepted by Navone.
The government said his plea agreement is one of 40 reached so far in the investigation, which has been conducted by the FBI and the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division.
Authorities said the crimes occurred during 2009, 2010 and 2011 in San Francisco and San Mateo County. The point of the conspiracy was to acquire property at noncompetitive prices, prosecutors said.
Navone allegedly conspired with others to arrange auction winners in advance. He also made and took payoffs to divert money to other conspirators that should have gone to mortgage and debt holders, prosecutors said.
Navone is charged with two counts of bid rigging, each of which carries up to 10 years in prison, and two counts of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, each of which carries up to 30 years in prison. The charges also carry potential fines of $1 million or more.
The terms of the plea offer were not released. Navone could not be reached for comment, and federal court filings do not list a defense attorney in the case.