A federal judge this week granted a motion to continue the May sentencing hearing for former Madison County Treasurer Fred Bathon while he cooperates with authorities in the bid-rigging case that is expected to land him behind bars.

Bathon’s attorney, Clyde Kuehn of Belleville, sought the continuance on Tuesday, saying that his client “is currently cooperating with the government in its efforts to bring future charges against” others who may have been involved in rigging the county’s delinquent property tax sales.

“The parties agree that it would be both appropriate and mutually beneficial if sentencing could be placed on hold while the Defendant’s cooperation remains ongoing,” Kuehn wrote in the motion, noting that the government had no objection to his request for a continuance.

Bathon, who served as treasurer from 1998 until his 2009 resignation, pled guilty in February to violating the Sherman Antitrust Act in relation to these tax sales.

He faces between 33 and 41 months in prison under the terms of his plea. He will also lose his entire public pension as a result of his conviction.

Bathon’s conviction stems from delinquent property tax sales conducted between 2005 and 2008, during which time the U.S. Attorney’s Office says Bathon structured tax sales in a way that eliminated competitive bidding and allowed tax buyers to engage in price fixing.

The federal prosecutor’s office says the former treasurer awarded properties at non-competitive interest rates and made sure his largest campaign contributors were the winning bidders during this period of time.

And by 2007 and 2008, the office says the bid rigging and price fixing was so pervasive that distressed homeowners were charged the statutory maximum interest –18 percent– on nearly every property tax lien sold.

In addition to this criminal case, Bathon is named as a defendant in at least three civil suits over his handling of the county’s delinquent tax sales.

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