Zaappaaz Inc., which does business as both a supplier and distributor under names including WB Promotions Inc. (asi/98409/353290), along with its president Azim Makanojiya, will plead guilty to conspiring to fix prices for customized promotional products sold online, according to federal officials.
“Schemes like the defendants’ cause financial harm to consumers who purchase goods and services and to businesses who sell goods and services in compliance with the laws of the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez. “The United States will continue to investigate and prosecute individuals and businesses who seek to gain an illegal unfair advantage.
In the felony case, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Houston, Makanojiya and conspirators “attended meetings and communicated in person and online,” using “social media platforms and encrypted messaging applications, such as Facebook, Skype and Whatsapp, to reach and implement their illegal agreements.” From as early as 2014 until June 2016, the conspirators fixed the prices of promotional wristbands and lanyards in violation of the Sherman Act, the government said.
“As today’s charges show, criminals cannot evade detection by conspiring online and using encrypted messaging,” said Assistant Attorney General Andrew Finch. “In addition, today’s charges are a clear sign of the Division’s commitment to uncovering and prosecuting collusion that affects internet sales. American consumers have the right to a marketplace free of unlawful collusion, whether they are shopping at retail stores or online.”
Makanojiya’s company also does business as Wrist-band.com and Customlanyard.net. In 2011, Wrist-Band made the Inc 500 list of fast-growing companies and generated nearly $7 million in sales in its first 12-months in operation.
Officials said the plea agreement is subject to court approval.