Two more real-estate investors admit cheating at South Mississippi foreclosure auctions

Two more real estate investors have admitted conspiring to rig bids at foreclosure auctions, bringing to nine the total who say they cheated at the public auctions held at South Mississippi courthouses.

J. Gregg Goodhart Jr., 50, of Biloxi and Christopher Vaughan, 53, of Ocean Springs each face up to 10 years in prison after entering guilty pleas Tuesday afternoon before U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola Jr., who is handling all the cases.

The investors met in secret before public auctions, agreed who would bid on properties and paid off those who sat out the bidding.

Vaughan admitted to attorneys with the U.S. Justice Department’s Antitrust Division that, from June 2011 until February 2017, he spent $408,890 on auction properties and payoffs.

Goodhart admitted spending $270,899 on real estate and payoffs from August 2009 to December 2014.

Goodhart was able to demonstrate that he couldn’t afford his own lawyer and is being represented by attorney Ellen Maier Allred with the federal public defender’s office. Vaughan is represented by attorney Arthur J. Madden III of Mobile, Alabama.

Both men are expected to appear before Guirola for sentencing at 10 a.m., Feb. 21.

Under their plea agreements, all nine investors are cooperating with the Antitrust Division’s ongoing investigation of bid rigging at South Mississippi real-estate auctions.

The Justice Department is cracking down nationwide on the practice, which prosecutors say inhibits competition and lowers the amount of money banks, and homeowners entitled to any proceeds, collect from foreclosures.