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Case Number: 1:22-cr-00113
Judge: Susan P. Watters
Court: United States District Court for the District of Montana (Yellowstone County)
Plaintiff's Attorney: United States Attorney’s Office in Billings
Description: Billings, Montana criminal defense lawyer represented Defendant charged with attempting to monopolize the market for highway crack-sealing service sin Montana and Wyoming.
Nathan Nephi Zito, 44, of Billings, pleaded guilty in October 2022 to an information charging him with one felony count of attempted monopolization in violation of the Sherman Act.
The government alleged in court documents that Zito attempted to cheat the competitive bidding process by monopolizing the markets for highway crack-sealing services in Montana and Wyoming by proposing that his company and its competitor allocate regional markets. As early as January 2020, Zito approached a competitor about a “strategic partnership” and proposed that the competitor stop competing with Zito’s company for highway crack-sealing projects administered by Montana and Wyoming. In return, Zito’s company would stop competing with the competitor for projects administered by South Dakota and Nebraska. Zito offered to pay his competitor $100,000 as additional compensation for lost business in Montana and Wyoming. Zito further proposed that he and his competitor enter into a sham transaction to disguise their collusion.
“If Zito had succeeded in his efforts to game the competitive bidding process, there would have been a dangerous probability he would have eliminated competition and been free to raise prices or limit production, which would have negatively impacted the American taxpayer. I am grateful to Assistant United States Attorney Bryan Dake and our valued partners at both the Antitrust Division within the Department of Justice and the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General for their creative and hard work on this case,” U.S. Attorney Laslovich said.
“Defendant Zito’s sentence should serve as a deterrent for contractors tempted by greed when bidding on contracts funded with federal dollars,” said Cissy Tubbs, Special Agent-In-Charge, Department of Transportation (DOT) Office of Inspector General (OIG), Western Region. “We rely on DOT operating agencies such as the Federal Highway Administration to sound the alarm when circumstances in these complex bidding processes seem amiss, as occurred here. Consequently, OIG is committed to pursuing these multifaceted cases with our partners including the Justice Department’s Procurement Collusion Strike Force, the Antitrust Division, and the Montana United States Attorney’s Office.”
15 U.S.C. 2, which provides:
Every person who shall monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons, to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, shall be deemed guilty of a felony, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by fine not exceeding $100,000,000 if a corporation, or, if any other person, $1,000,000, or by imprisonment not exceeding 10 years, or by both said punishments, in the discretion of the court.
Outcome: Defendant was sentenced to three years of probation, with six months home detention, and fined $27,000.