WASHINGTON - An executive of a U.S. distributor has agreed to plead guilty and serve jail time for his participation in a global conspiracy to fix the prices of aftermarket auto lights, the Department of Justice announced.

This is the first charge in the department's ongoing investigation into the aftermarket auto lights industry. The auto lights were typically installed during collision repair, or as accessories and upgrades.

According to the one-count felony charge filed on Feb. 8 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, Polo Shu-Sheng Hsu conspired with others to suppress and eliminate competition by fixing the prices of aftermarket auto lights.

Hsu, a former CEO of a U.S. distributor for a Taiwan producer of aftermarket auto lights, participated in the conspiracy during a multi-year span, believed to have started around April 2000 and extended until September 2008, the Department of Justice said.

According to the charge, Hsu and others participated in a conspiracy in which the participants met and agreed to charge prices of aftermarket auto lights at certain pre-determined levels. The participants in the conspiracy issued price announcements and price lists in accordance with the agreements reached, and collected and exchanged information on prices and sales of aftermarket auto lights for the purpose of monitoring and enforcing adherence to the agreed-upon prices, according to the Department of Justice. The department charged that the conspirators met in Taiwan, the United States and elsewhere for their discussions.

Under his plea deal, which is subject to court approval, Hsu has agreed to serve six months in jail, to pay a $25,000 criminal fine and to assist the department in its ongoing investigation into the aftermarket auto lights industry.

Hsu is charged with violating the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.

This case is part of an ongoing joint investigation of the Department of Justice Antitrust Division's San Francisco Office and the FBI in San Francisco. Investigators are asking anyone with information concerning illegal or anti-competitive conduct in the aftermarket auto lights industry to call the Antitrust Division's San Francisco Field Office at (415) 436-6660 or visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.htm.