Christina Stueve Hodges Feb. 23, 2013, 8:36am

St. Jacob attorney John Barberis and Collinsville lawyer Steve Giacoletto have filed a class action lawsuit against Madison County over delinquent tax sales  handled by former Madison County treasurer Fred Bathon.

Bathon, 58, who was treasurer from 1998 until he resigned in December 2009, pleaded guilty Feb. 5 in federal court to violating the Sherman Antitrust Act. He was convicted of structuring Madison County property tax sales in a way that increased prices and rewarded campaign contributors.

Giacoletto and Barberis claim the lawsuit is filed on behalf of property owners who suffered financial losses in relation to fraudulent delinquent tax sale auctions administered by Madison County officials from 2005-2009.

According to Barberis and Giacoletto, Madison County, Bathon, and “individuals linked to the tax sale” were named as defendants in the class action lawsuit, including John Vassen, Dennis Ballinger, Robert Luken, John Scott, Scott McClean and Edward Beasley.

Barberis and Giacoletto expect more public and private parties to be added to the lawsuit.

“Between documented political party campaign contributions and statements made by party officials, it seems very likely that more County officials other than just Fred Bathon knew what was going on with illegal delinquent tax auctions,” according to a news release from Barberis and Giacoletto.

“All of those people who were involved in victimizing the property owners of Madison County should be required to pay for their actions and make their victims whole, and that is what we intend to see happen.”

“Madison County residents already distressed by the bad economy years ago, were further victimized by County officials handing out favors to keep their own positions secure. Despite what some people may think, the money lost by those property owners can be calculated and members of a jury in Madison County are just the people to decide how much it will be,” the attorneys further stated.

The case is assigned to Circuit Judge William Mudge.

U.S. Attorney Steve Wiggington of the Southern District of Illinois is conducting an ongoing investigation of Bathon’s activities.

Madison County case number 13-L-276.

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