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GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) -- A North Carolina real estate investor has pleaded guilty in federal court in connection with a scheme involving public real estate foreclosure auctions.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced that Darren K. Phillips pleaded guilty in federal court in Greenville Thursday to conspiring to commit mail fraud.

Prosecutors said Phillips conspired with a group of speculators to fraudulently acquire title to rigged foreclosure properties offered through public auctions at artificially suppressed prices. The plot aimed to help the conspirators make and receive money and divert the money away from financial institutions, homeowners and others with an interest in the rigged properties.

Phillips faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

A Raleigh man pleaded guilty in 2010 in connection with an investigation into the case,

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