Louisville, Kentucky - A federal grand jury in the Western District of Kentucky returned an indictment charging two Kentucky real estate professionals with conspiring to rig bids at an estate auction for farmland and timber rights.

According to the indictment, Barry Dyer and Mackie Shelton conspired with others to rig bids at a 2018 auction for hundreds of acres of farmland and a tract of timber rights. The indictment alleges that Dyer and Shelton demanded and accepted a $40,000 payoff from competing auction participants to stop bidding, artificially suppressing the sales price of the farmland.

“Collusion and bid rigging at farmland auctions undermine our nation’s vital farming industry, robbing farmers and their families of a fair price for their land and artificially suppressing farmland values relied on for financing throughout the national Farm Credit System,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Richard A. Powers of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “The division has a long history of ensuring the integrity of real estate auctions and will continue to prosecute those who choose to break the law and line their own pockets at the expense of others. With support from our law enforcement partners, the Antitrust Division will hold accountable anyone who conspires to deprive the American farmer of competitive pricing – whether on the crops they sell or the farmland they use to grow them.”

“The allegation contained in the indictment charges a serious violation of the law and serves notice to would be fraudsters who plan to cheat hard working Western Kentucky farmers via the auction process that they will face robust criminal investigation and swift federal prosecution,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Michael A. Bennett for the Western District of Kentucky. 

“American farmers are critical to our country’s vitality, and the FBI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to protect their right to operate in an environment that fosters fair practice and is free of corruption,” said Assistant Director Calvin Shivers of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “These charges demonstrate the FBI’s dedication to uncovering corrupt criminal activity and holding individuals like Dyer and Shelton, who allegedly attempted to cheat the system by conspiring to rig bids and profit from the hard work of others, accountable for their actions.”

Dyer and Shelton are charged with a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. If convicted, they face a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine. 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 $1 million. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal I Section is prosecuting the case, which was investigated with the assistance of the FBI’s International Corruption Unit.

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