Three men have pleaded guilty in a case involving price fixing property tax sales in Madison County under former Treasurer Fred Bathon. 70 year old Barrett Rochman of Makanda, 56 year old John Vassen of O'Fallon, and 51 year old Scott McLean of Belleville entered the guilty pleas in federal court in a case where Bathon would structure the sale to benefit campaign contributors. They will be sentenced in February.
As a result of their actions, more than 7-thousand parcels of land in the county were affected, leading to about $17-million in back taxes. The 58 year old Bathon has already pleaded guilty to federal antitrust charges and has reportedly cooperated in the ongoing investigation. He will be sentenced in December. Authorities say between 2005 and 2008, Bathon would structure tax sales in 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-percent. Rochman, Vassen and McClean were charged with making campaign contributions to Bathon in exchange for receiving property tax liens at non-competitive interest rates. Five property owners have filed a civil suit against Bathon, Madison County, and six other defendants...including Vassen and McClean...alleging they conspired to cheat taxpayers out of millions of dollars.