Another Japanese auto parts supplier pled guilty Tuesday in a far reaching US probe into price fixing in the auto industry, which has now snared nine different companies on three continents. Nagoya, Japan-based Tokai Rika Co agreed to plead guilty and to pay a $17.7 million criminal fine for its role in a conspiracy to fix prices of heater control panels, the Department of Justice said in a statement. Tokai Rika also agreed to plead guilty to obstruction of justice related to the investigation. According to a two-count felony charge filed in the US district court in Detroit, Tokai Rika took part in meetings to rig bids for, and to fix the prices of heater control panels sold to Toyota in the United States and elsewhere. The conspiracy lasted from 2003 to 2010. \"The conspirators used code names and chose meeting places and times to avoid detection,\" said Scott Hammond, Justice Department deputy assistant attorney general. \"They knew their actions would harm American consumers, and attempted to cover it up when caught. The division will continue to hold accountable companies who engage in anticompetitive conduct and who obstruct law enforcement,\" he said. So far, nine companies, including Tokai Rika, and 11 executives have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty in the department\'s ongoing investigation. The companies include major parts suppliers Furukawa Electric, DENSO, Yazaki, GS Electech, Fujikura, Autoliv and TRW Deutschland. They have agreed to pay a total of more than $790 million in criminal fines. Nippon Seiki Co has agreed to plead guilty.