Executives Charged with Bid Rigging, Territorial Allocation and Defrauding the U.S. Forest Service After a Wiretap Investigation

Following a court-authorized wiretap investigation, a federal grand jury in Boise, Idaho, returned an indictment this week charging two executives of competing companies with conspiring to rig bids and allocate territories in violation of the Sherman Act, conspiring to commit wire fraud and committing wire fraud.

According to the seven-count felony indictment, Ike Tomlinson and Kris Bird’s conspiracy affected contracts for forest-firefighting services. As alleged, the U.S. Forest Service runs a competitive bidding process for these contracts to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently. The indictment alleges that from at least in or about February 2014, up to and including in or about March, the defendants coordinated their bids to “squeeze” and “drown” competitors; accepted payment for fuel trucks at collusive and noncompetitive daily rates; and tried to conceal their actions.  

This investigation was conducted by the department’s Procurement Collusion Strike Force (PCSF), which included FBI agents, with judicial authorization, intercepting phone calls between the defendants. As alleged, Tomlinson and Bird spoke with one another shortly before the deadline to submit bids on fuel truck contracts. During calls quoted in the indictment, they allegedly agreed to rig bids, allocate territories and target competitors.

A violation of the Sherman Act carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals and a maximum penalty of a $100 million fine for corporations. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by victims if either amount is greater than the maximum. A violation of the wire fraud statute carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Idaho and FBI Salt Lake City Field Office, Boise Resident Agency are investigating the case.

Trial Attorney Matthew Chou and Assistant Chief Christopher J. Carlberg of the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean M. Mazorol for the District of Idaho are prosecuting the case.

In November 2019, the Justice Department created the PCSF, a joint law enforcement effort to combat antitrust crimes and related fraudulent schemes that impact government procurement, grant and program funding at all levels of government – federal, state and local. To learn more about the PCSF, or to report information on bid rigging, price fixing, market allocation and other anticompetitive conduct related to government spending, go to www.justice.gov/procurement-collusion-strike-force. Anyone with information in connection with this investigation can contact the PCSF at the link listed above. 

An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Official news published at https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/executives-charged-bid-rigging-territorial-allocation-and-defrauding-us-forest-service-after

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