Tax buyers to be sentenced in federal court Feb. 19

By Ann Maher | Feb 12, 2014


Tax buyers who pleaded guilty to participating in a non-competitive bidding scheme in Madison County from 2005-2008 will be sentenced in federal court in East St. Louis next week.

Scott K. McLean, 51, of Belleville and John A. Vassen, 56, of O’Fallon, will appear before U.S. District Judge David Herndon at 9 a.m. on Feb. 19.

A third tax buyer who pleaded guilty along with McLean and Vassen is Barret R. Rochman, 70, of Makanda. His attorney John P. Rogers of Clayton, Mo. moved to reschedule sentencing twice due to conflicts. Herndon granted both motions and has set Rochman’s sentencing at 10 a.m. on March 25.

The men pleaded guilty on Oct. 19 to violating the Sherman Antitrust Act, a crime punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine. They were charged after former Madison County Treasurer Fred Bathon pleaded guilty last February to structuring property tax sales in a way that increased interest rates for the tax buyers, in exchange for campaign contributors.

Herndon sentenced Bathon to 30 months in prison on Dec. 6. Bathon is serving his sentence at Terre Haute Federal Corrections Institute, a medium security facility in Indiana.

Bathon, McLean, Vassen and Rochman are also defendants in some or all of three class actions filed by distressed property owners who claim they were victimized by the favorable treatment received by the tax buyers. Attorneys for the cases pending in Madison County are seeking to consolidate all three class actions and amend the complaint.

Clinton County Circuit Judge Dennis Middendorff was assigned to preside over the cases, presumably for the appearance of impartiality.

As of Feb. 11, Middendorff had not ruled on the motions to consolidate.

On Jan. 29, however, he denied defense motions to dismiss in an omnibus order.

“This Court has spent some time reviewing each of the motions to dismiss filed by the various defendants in this cause, and probably too much time attempting to draft individual orders addressing the individual motions,” Middendorff wrote. “Each of the motions to dismiss were separate and distinct, and yet there were common themes that ran through each.

“More importantly, while some of the motions were filed per 735ILCS5/2-619 only, and some were filed per 5/2-615 and 5/2-619, any amendments to the complaint would involve all defendants. Therefore I have decided to discard the previously prepared individual orders in favor of this omnibus order.”

Madison County Circuit Court case numbers: 13-L-276, 13-L-376, 13-L-390

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