Bruce McBarnette admits bid-rigging, pays fines topping $47,000
Dec. 17 was not a good day for M50 world high jump champion Bruce McBarnette. On that day, according to this court document, he admitted that he gamed a system for auctioned properties in North Carolina. And he agreed to pay more than $47,000 in various fines and penalties. The N.C. Department of Justice found, among other things: “Defendants (Bruce and his company) were unjustly enriched in the amounts they received from other bidders in connection with their contracts, combinations or conspiracies to refrain from bidding.” The DOJ posted this news release on the case. News stories appeared in trade journals online and Associated Press stories.
I wrote to Bruce, asking for his side of the story. He wrote back inviting me to call him on the phone. But I didn’t have time, so I asked for an email comment. Haven’t seen one yet. I’ll try again.
Bruce, a lawyer and professional actor, still has enough coin left to put out press releases on plans to jump at indoor masters nationals. So he’s apparently not hurting. But his reputation has taken a hit.
At least he fessed up to his transgressions. (Confronted with evidence, he might not have had a choice.)
What a bummer to all involved.
Here’s how one trade journal reported the story:
North Carolina AG Cooper Busts Virginia Man in Foreclosure Auction Scam
Tue, 2010-12-28 15:59
Bruce Olvin McBarnette of Sterling, Va. and his company, Summit Connection LLC,Â have been barred from rigging bids on public auctions and must pay civil penalties and consumer refunds for trying to fix foreclosure sales of properties in Durham and Mecklenburg, N.C. counties, announced North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.
â€śTrying to fix public auctions isnâ€™t the fair, legal way to do business,â€ť Cooper said. â€śBid rigging squelches honest competition and keeps buyers and sellers from getting a truly fair price.â€ť
The Attorney General alleges that McBarnette and Summit Connection LLC entered into agreements to rig bids on four foreclosed properties being auctioned in Durham County in 2009 and 2010:
â–şMcBarnette told a local pastor that he would continue bidding against her for property her church wanted to purchase unless she paid him $1,200.
â–şA man trying to purchase a home for his mother paid McBarnette $800 after McBarnette told him he would lose the auction unless he paid the money.
â–şA pastor who wanted to help revitalize his churchâ€™s neighborhood paid McBarnette a total of $2,900 so that his company wouldnâ€™t keep bidding on two properties.
In seven other property auctions, Cooper contends that McBarnette attempted to get competing bidders to pay him not to bid against them but the bidders turned him down. Four of those auctions involved Durham County properties, and three involved Mecklenburg County properties.
Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens approved Attorney General Cooperâ€™s request for a consent judgment against McBarnette and Summit Connection. Under the judgment, McBarnette and Summit Connection must pay $47,400. Of that total, McBarnette and Summit Connection have paid $4,900 in restitution, the amount of money they made for agreeing not to bid on certain properties.
The money will go to sellers of the properties who would have made more money at auction had McBarnette not rigged the bids. Restitution will be paid through the Durham County Clerk of Superior Court, which alerted the Attorney Generalâ€™s Consumer Protection Division to some of McBarnetteâ€™s activities.
In addition, McBarnette and his company are barred permanently from entering into any agreement not to bid on public sales of property in North Carolina. They are also prohibited from asking anyone not to bid and from offering or accepting anything of value in exchange for not bidding.
For more information, visitÂ www.ncdoj.com.