Circuit Judge Dennis Middendorf has consolidated three proposed class actions against former Madison County treasurer Fred Bathon and alleged co-conspirators in a tax sale price fixing scheme.
Middendorf, a visiting judge from ClintonCounty, entered the order April 2 in the pending Madison County cases.
He retroactively granted leave for plaintiffs to file a first amended complaint which could see Madison County re-named as a defendant. The three cases were filed late last year by distressed property owners who claim they were victimized by the favorable treatment received by certain tax buyers from 2005 to 2009.
Middendorf had already dismissed the County from the case after it successfully argued that Bathon was not an employee of the county, rather he was elected, and therefore his actions did not benefit the county.
Bathon, who pleaded guilty to violating the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, was sentenced to 30 months in prison on Dec. 6 following conviction on rigging property tax sales in a way that eliminated competitive bidding and increased interest rates for the tax buyers in exchange for campaign contributors.
Tax buyers Scott K. McLean, 51, of Belleville, John A. Vassen, 56, of O’Fallon and Barrett Rochman, 70, of Makanda, also pleaded guilty to participating in the pay to play scheme and were also recently sentenced in federal court. McLean received 18 months, Vassen, 24 months and Rochman, 16 months.
In addition to those who were convicted in the conspiracy, other defendants in the civil litigation are John W. Scott, Prairie State Securities, Inc., SI Securities and Lincoln Securities LLC, Dennis Ballinger, Empire Tax Corporation, Vista Securities, Robert Luken, Luken Investment Company, Land of Lincoln Securities LLC, Prairie State Securities, Inc., SI Securities, V.I. Inc. Retirement Plan and V.I. Inc.
Middendorf indicated that responsive pleadings to the first amended complaint are due within 45 days.
The next motion hearing is set May 29.
John Barberis of St. Jacob and Steve Giacoletto of Collinsville represent plaintiff Scott Bueker (13-L-276).
Aaron G. Weishaar and Christopher A. Michener of Reinert, Weishaar & Associates in St. Louis represent plaintiff Virgil Straeter (13-L-376).
Nelson L. Mitten, Charles S. Kramer and Paul A. Grote of Reizman Berger in St. Louis represent plaintiff Geralyn Lindow (13-L-390).