On December 23, 2015, DOJ filed the first criminal charges in its ongoing investigation of antitrust violations in the heir location services industry. Heir location firms identify potential heirs to estates of people who died without wills, and help secure such inheritances on a contingency-fee basis. DOJ simultaneously announced that the California-based defendants have agreed to plead guilty to a nearly decade-long customer-allocation arrangement with another firm, and to cooperate with the ongoing investigation. Pursuant to the agreement, the corporate defendant will pay an $890,000 fine, and the court will decide the appropriate criminal sentence for the individual defendant.
On January 14, DOJ announced the filing of similar customer-allocation charges against the owner of a Massachusetts-based heir location firm. The defendant in that case also has agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with the ongoing investigation. Both cases currently are pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.