May 13, 2024

Sports Equipment Sales Professional Pleads Guilty to Long-Running Bid Rigging Schemes

Morgan Howard

A former sales employee of a manufacturer and distributor of football helmets and other sports equipment pleaded guilty today for his role in three separate conspiracies — two conspiracies to rig bids in violation of the Sherman Act and one conspiracy to commit wire fraud — all related to sports equipment for schools located in Mississippi and elsewhere. At least 100 schools throughout Mississippi and elsewhere were victims of these conspiracies.

According to court documents, Charles Ferrell Trimm conspired with two unnamed sports equipment distributors and numerous individuals to rig bids from August 2020 through November 2022 and from May 2021 to February 2023, respectively. Trimm and his co-conspirators agreed to submit complementary bids to schools located in Mississippi and elsewhere in order to obtain procurements for school sports equipment and related services. Trimm also conspired with unnamed co-conspirators to commit wire fraud by submitting false bids to schools located in Mississippi and elsewhere from May 2016 to July 2023. As a part of this scheme, Trimm and others used an unidentified individual’s identity without authorization, including by forging the individual’s signature.

“The charged criminal schemes harmed public schools by subverting their procurement processes and providing the false appearance of competition for precious taxpayer dollars,” said Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “The Antitrust Division and its partners will continue to protect taxpayers and students across the country by stopping bid rigging and fraud that targets government procurements wherever we find it, including at the state and local levels.”

“The conspirators took advantage of schools in Mississippi by rigging bids to affect the prices schools paid for sports equipment,” said U.S. Attorney Todd Gee for the Southern District of Mississippi. “The Justice Department is committed to prosecuting these types of anti-competitive practices and ensuring that schools and other buyers can obtain goods and services from a fair and open marketplace.”

“Charles Trimm and his co-conspirators’ actions fraudulently deprived public schools of valuable resources to support students,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Rebecca Day of the FBI Jackson Field Office. “The FBI is committed to working with our partners to hold individuals like Trimm accountable for their actions.”

If convicted, for the Sherman Act violation, Trimm faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million criminal fine. The fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime. If convicted of the fraud charge, Trimm faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a criminal fine and court-ordered restitution. 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 Section and the FBI investigated this case as part of an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct in the school sports equipment industry.

Trial Attorneys Jill Rogowski, Laura Butte, Marc Hedrich and Evan Binder of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division prosecuted the case.

In November 2019, the Justice Department created the Procurement Collusion Strike Force (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.

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