RALEIGH, N.C. (Legal Newsline) - North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced on Tuesday that a Virginia man and his company must give refunds to consumers for allegedly trying to fix foreclosure sales of North Carolina-based properties.
Bruce Olvin McBarnette and Summit Connection, his Sterling-based company, allegedly entered into agreements to rig bids on four foreclosed Durham County, N.C., properties that were auctioned over the past two years.
A consent judgment was issued against McBarnette and Summit Connection that requires them to pay $47,400, with $4,900 of that money going towards restitution.
Cooper alleged that the parties sought to illegally manipulate sales of the properties. In one alleged instance, McBarnette informed a pastor that he would continue bidding against her for property her church wanted unless she paid him $1,200.
Another pastor allegedly paid McBarnette a total of $2,900 so that his company wouldn't keep bidding on two properties that the bidder wanted to help revitalize the neighborhood.
The suit also alleged that McBarnette collected $800 from a man who was trying to purchase a home for his mother and was threatened that he would lose the auction unless he paid the money.
"Trying to fix public auctions isn't the fair, legal way to do business," Cooper said. "Bid rigging squelches honest competition and keeps buyers and sellers from getting a truly fair price."
The suit also alleged that McBarnette, in seven other instances, tried to get competing bidders to pay him so he wouldn't bid against them. The bidders turned him down. Four of those auctions involved Durham County properties, and three involved Mecklenburg County properties.
Under terms of the judgment, McBarnette and his company are permanently banned from engaging in any action related to any agreement to not bid on public sales of property in North Carolina. The defendants are also prohibited from asking anyone not to bid and from offering or accepting anything of value for not bidding on a property.