Online Promoter Pleads Guilty to Swag Price Fixing

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By Eleanor Tyler

Online promotions seller Zaappaaz Inc. (d/b/a WB Promotions Inc., Wrist-Band.com and Customlanyard.net) and its president Azim Makanojiya agreed to plead guilty to fixing prices for wrist bands, landyards, and other swag in violation of antitrust law ( U.S. v. Zaappaaz Inc. , S.D. Tex., 17-cr-00477, 8/7/17 ).

The Justice Department’s antitrust division announced the plea agreements Aug. 7 as part of its ongoing investigation into the online promotional products industry. Pursuant to the agreements, which are subject to court approval, Zaappaaz will pay a $1.9 million fine. Both defendants will cooperate with the investigation into other companies.

According to the criminal information against Zaappaaz and Makanojiya, competing online promotions firms used social media platforms and encrypted messaging applications like Facebook, Skype, and WhatsApp, to reach and implement illegal agreements to fix prices and eschew competition between Oct. 2014 and June 2016.

“Criminals cannot evade detection by conspiring online and using encrypted messaging,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Andrew Finch said in a statement. The division declined to comment beyond its published statement.

Makanojiya faces up to 10 years in prison and a $1 million individual fine for his participation in the cartel.

The case is not yet assigned to a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. The court will have discretion to accept the guilty pleas and will set punishment for both defendants at sentencing.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eleanor Tyler in Washington at etyler@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bna.com

For More Information

The court docket for the Zaapaaz case is at http://src.bna.com/rrZ.

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