St. Clair County treasurer Charles Suarez illegally rigged bids at sales of delinquent taxes to enrich Democratic campaign contributors, according to a new lawsuit.
Two couples sued Suarez and tax buyers in federal court on Oct. 17, alleging a conspiracy like one that sent former Madison County treasurer Fred Bathon to prison.
John Bloyer Jr., Adrianne Bloyer, Kevin Dvorak and Kathleen Dvorak, all of O’Fallon, claim the conspirators artificially inflated the interest rate at tax sales in 2007 and 2008.
The Bloyers claim they paid $3,594.21 in interest to redeem a $3,327.97 tax bill.
The Dvoraks claim they paid $3,743.45 in interest to redeem two tax bills worth $3,465.97.
Tax buyer White Oak Securities more than doubled its investment in three years, they claim.
They pleaded that no statute of limitations bars the suit because they did not learn of the conspiracy until this May.
Madison County treasurer Kurt Prenzler, who revealed the bid rigging in tax sales of that county, said in May that he found the same patterns in St. Clair County.
The Madison County case resulted in prosecutions at federal court.
Bathon pleaded guilty of antitrust violations. He serves a 30 month prison sentence.
Tax buyers John Vassen, Scott McLean and Barrett Rochman also pleaded guilty. Vassen serves two years, McLean serves 18 months and Rochman serves 16 months.
U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton estimated that property owners suffered more than $4 million in damages, but he chose not to seek restitution.
Property owners then sought recovery through three civil suits in Madison County.
A judge consolidated those cases, which currently continue before Clinton County associate judge William Becker.
The Bloyers and the Dvoraks chose to sue in federal court.
They seek damages not only from Suarez but also from tax buyers Barrett Rochman, Kenneth Rochman, Dennis Ballinger Sr., Dennis Ballinger Jr., John Vassen, Joseph Vassen, Scott McLean, Scott Sieron, John Scott, and Edward Beasley, as individuals and through companies they own.
Aaron Weishaar of St. Louis signed the suit.
Boris Kaupp of St. Louis, Nelson Mitten and Paul Grote of Clayton, Mo., Steven Giacoletto of Collinsville, and John Barberis of St. Jacob also represent the plaintiffs.