Tax buyer claims Prenzler failed to get court order for '12 tax sale

By Christina Stueve Hodges | Feb 26, 2013


Belleville attorney John Vassen is suing Madison County Treasurer Kurt Prenzler for allegedly not obtaining a court order to conduct a delinquent tax sale in 2012, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in Madison County Circuit Court.

Vassen claims the 2012 tax sale is null and void due to Prenzler's alleged failure to obtain the order.

The suit filed by Vassen and several of his co-plaintiff entities claims they spent $421,152.81 to purchase 272 tax certificates in 2012.

“The defendant’s failure to obtain a court order is without reasonable excuse, has caused great damage to the plaintiffs, other tax buyers and the citizens of Madison County,” the lawsuit stated.

Vassen's suit claims that Prenzler's inaction violated the Illinois Constitution and state statute by failing to perform a requisite duty.

The suit also claims that if a County Treasurer fails that duty,  the office holder must forfeit no less than $50 and no more than $1,000 "according to the nature and aggravation of the offense," according to 55 ILCS 5/3-10021.

The Vassen entities also claim unjust enrichment and fraudulent misrepresentation.

“Defendant’s conduct conferred a benefit upon himself and Madison County, Illinois at the expense of the plaintiffs,” the lawsuit stated.

The suit accuses Prenzler of continuing to improperly charge interest on redemptions made by home buyers, even after he knew the tax sale was null and void, the lawsuit states.

“Interest continues to accrue on the tax certificates of purchase issued by the defense to the plaintiffs pursuant to the Feb. 22, 2012 annual delinquent tax sale.”

V& V, Vex Properties, Vi, Inc., and Vi Inc Profit Sharing are also listed as plaintiffs in the case.

Paul T. Slocomb of Hoffman Slocomb in St. Louis represents the plaintiff.

The case is assigned to Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis.

VAssen's suit was filed shortly after St. Jacob attorney John Barberis and Collinsville lawyer Steve Giacoletto filed a class action against the 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 their lawsuit seeks to represent 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 Vassen, Dennis Ballinger, Robert Luken, John Scott, Scott McClean and Edward Beasley.

Madison County case number 13-L-278.

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