Photo Courtesy of Hank's Truckforum
Great Lakes Concrete truck delivers a load; firm and CEO pleaded guilty to price-fixing.

A federal antitrust probe has snagged a handful of Iowa ready-mix firms in a price-fixing scheme spanning more than three years.

Great Lakes Concrete Inc., Spencer, violated federal antitrust law, which carries up to $100 million in fines, for bid-rigging and price-fixing ready-mix sales in northern Iowa, the U.S. Justice Dept. says. The firm pleaded guilty to one felony count on Aug. 24. The company plea follows a similar plea last year by its president, Kent R. Stewart. He was sentenced in February to pay $83,427 in fines and serve a year in prison for participating in an overpricing scheme, from 2008 to 2009, in exchange for lucrative payouts.

Several other firms and individuals have been convicted and sentenced so far in the ongoing sting. VS Holding Co., formerly GCC Alliance Concrete Inc., now joins Great Lakes Concrete in awaiting sentencing. The Orange City-based firm pleaded guilty in July. Former VS Holding President Steven VandeBrake allegedly orchestrated secret deals with three different concrete firms from 2006 to 2008. VandeBrake was sentenced in February to four years in prison and fined $820,000. He had pleaded guilty last May to three felony charges in U.S. District Court in Sioux City.

Tri-State Ready Mix, Rock Valley, reached a Justice Dept. plea deal in June for its involvement in the scam. Firm President Chad Van Zee was sentenced in June to 45 days in prison and fined $50,000 for conspiring, between 2006 and 2009, with VandeBrake to create above-market ready-mix prices. The joint federal investigation, headed by Justice's Antitrust Division in Chicago, is still ongoing in Iowa and surrounding states.