Madison - St. Clair Record

Monday, February 24, 2020

Trial date to be set in Madison County bid rigging suit

Lawsuits

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Aug 24, 2018

General court 08

Visiting judge J. Marc Kelly of Fayette County will hear motions to set a trial date and briefing schedule in a class action alleging several tax buyers participated in a bid-rigging conspiracy with former Madison County Treasurer Fred Bathon.

The plaintiffs filed a motion for a trial date on Aug. 9 through attorney Steven Giacoletto of Giacoletto Law Firm in Collinsville. The hearing is scheduled for Sept. 11 at 9 a.m. “or soon thereafter.” 

Plaintiff attorney Nelson Mitten of St. Louis filed the bid-rigging suit on behalf of a class of individuals who allege Bathon arranged for tax buyers to charge interest at the maximum legal limit of 18 percent at auctions of delinquent property taxes from 2005 to 2008.


Giacoletto

The plaintiffs allege Bathon conspired with each tax purchaser defendant to establish a “no trailing bid” policy, meaning the process required one-time, simultaneous bidding. Rather than allowing a series of bids, all bidders had to bid at once, with the auctioneer accepting the lowest bid that was heard.

The defendants allegedly then made an agreement with Bathon to bid the maximum of 18 percent in the simultaneous bidding.

Bathon was charged in February 2013 for violating the Sherman Antitrust Act. He pleaded guilty the same day. Defendants Scott McLean, Barrett Rochman and Joe Vassen also entered guilty pleas to federal antitrust charges in October 2013.

Mitton filed the third amended complaint Sept. 25, 2017 after Kelly granted the plaintiffs' request to re-join Madison County and Madison County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler as defendants.

They had been previously excused by the Fifth District Appellate Court on an appeal regarding class certification.

Since the plaintiffs’ third amended complaint had been filed, several defendants have filed motions for summary judgment.

The defendants have made various arguments in their motions, including allegations that the plaintiffs’ claims are barred by the statute of limitations and that several defendants were not involved in a conspiracy with respect to sales of delinquent property taxes in Madison County.

Kelly has not yet held a hearing on the summary judgment motions. 

Madison County Circuit Court case number 13-L-276

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