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Ex-Contractor Pleads Guilty to Rigging Bids in Wildfire Fuel Services for US Forest Service

 |  May 12, 2024

Ike Tomlinson, the former owner of contractor companies providing fuel truck services to the US Forest Service’s wildfire fighters, pleaded guilty today. The plea marks a crucial step in a case that involved conspiracies to monopolize, rig bids, and allocate territories, all in violation of Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

Tomlinson, aged 60, admitted to conspiring with co-defendant Kris Bird, 61, and others in at least two separate schemes. The first involved rigging bids and allocating territories in the market for wildfire-fighting fuel truck services for certain dispatch centers of the U.S. Forest Service’s Great Basin wildfire dispatch region, dating back to as early as March 2015 until approximately March 2023.

Furthermore, from at least February 2020 until about March 2023, Tomlinson and Bird conspired to monopolize the same market. Their tactics, as outlined in the plea agreement, included excluding competing vendors from the market and maintaining control over pricing. Examples cited in court documents include coordinating bids to undermine competitors and manipulating Forest Service dispatch priority lists to disadvantage other vendors.

Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division emphasized the significance of prosecuting monopolistic behavior, stating, “Congress criminalized conspiracies to monopolize in 1890 to protect the American promise of free enterprise.” Kanter underscored the commitment of the Justice Department and its Procurement Collusion Strike Force (PCSF) partners to utilize all available law enforcement tools, including court-authorized wiretaps, to address such conduct that harms public interests.

The Sherman Act violations carry severe penalties, with a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals, and up to a $100 million fine for corporations. The fines may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by victims if either amount exceeds the statutory maximum. The sentencing will be determined by a federal district court judge, considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other pertinent factors.

Source: Justice Gv