Chicago, Illinois - Carter Brett, an account executive for a large flooring manufacturer, has been charged for conspiring to rig bids and fix prices for commercial flooring products and services, and for his role in a money laundering conspiracy involving kickbacks, the Department of Justice announced.
“The bid-rigging and money laundering schemes charged today cheated a state-funded school out of competitive bids and lined the defendant’s pockets with kickbacks,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “This latest charge in the ongoing investigation demonstrates the Antitrust Division’s commitment to bringing to justice those in the commercial flooring industry who have victimized Chicago-area schools, hospitals, charities, and businesses.”
“When businesses rig bids to increase their own profits illegally, it is our citizens who suffer,” said Special Agent in Charge Emmerson Buie Jr. of the FBI’s Chicago Field Division. “Today’s charges illustrate our ongoing efforts to protect Americans from price fixing and other dishonest business practices.”
According to a two-count felony charge filed today in U.S. District Court in Chicago, Illinois, Brett engaged in a conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition in the commercial flooring market by initiating and orchestrating a bid rotation conspiracy among three commercial flooring installation companies so that the designated company would win the bidding for jobs at a suburban community college. According to the charge, Brett and his co-conspirators carried out the conspiracy from at least as early as 2013 until as late as June 22, 2017.
The second count filed today charges Brett with engaging in a money laundering conspiracy wherein Brett solicited and accepted kickbacks from his co-conspirators in exchange for offering those co-conspirators unlawfully low pricing. The charge alleges that Brett established a shell corporation for the sole purpose of receiving the illegal kickback payments. According to the charge, Brett and his co-conspirators carried out this conspiracy from at least as early as 2013 until late 2017.
A violation of the Sherman Act carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million criminal fine for individuals. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.
Conspiring to commit money laundering carries maximum penalties of a $500,000 criminal fine and 20 years in prison. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the value of the property involved in the money laundering transactions, if that amount is greater than the statutory maximum fine.
The information charging Brett is merely an accusation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The charges are the result of an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into bid rigging, price fixing, and other anticompetitive conduct in the commercial flooring industry, conducted by the Antitrust Division’s Chicago Office and the FBI’s Chicago Field Division. Brett is the fifth individual to be charged in the investigation; one corporation has also been charged to date.