Former Madison County Treasurer Fred Bathon pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court Tuesday to violating the Sherman Antitrust Act. It was revealed in court that for tax sales conducted between 2005 and 2008, Bathon structured delinquent property tax sales in such a way that eliminated competitive bidding and allowed the tax buyers to engage in price fixing by only bidding the statutory maximum interest rate of 18%.
The U.S. Attorney's Office goes on to say that "by 2007 and 2007 the bid rigging and price fixing was so pervasive that distressed homeowners were charged the statutory maximum interest rate on nearly every property tax lein sold." U.S. Attorney Steven Wiggington went on to say this crime exploited financially-distressed homeowners, and that the investigation is far from finished. Of particular note is that this charge is one of conspiracy, which by it's very nature involved more than one person. Under Illinois law, Bathon will forfeit his entire public pension as a result of the conviction. Sentencing is scheduled for May 17.