UNITED STATES ATTORNEY
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
Re: United States v. John A. Vassen
The United States Department of Justice believes it is important to keep victims of federal crime informed of court proceedings. This notice provides information about the above-referenced criminal case
Recent Event: Defendant John A. Vassen pleaded guilty on Thursday, October 17, 2013, to a one-count criminal Information charging him with a criminal antitrust offense in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1. On February 19, 2014 Vassen was sentenced to 24 months in prison. Following incarceration, Vassen shall serve a 3 year term of supervised release. Vassen shall pay a fine of $25,000.
Case Summary: Frederick Bathon was elected to be the Madison County, Illinois, County Treasurer in November, 1998, and served in that position until December, 2009. As treasurer, BATHON was responsible for conducting the Madison County, Illinois property tax sales in each of those years. For the tax sales conducted in 2005-2008, JOHN VASSEN, along with other tax buyers who purchased property tax liens in Madison County, engaged in collusion to suppress and restrain competition to enable them to purchase tax liens at non-competitive interest rates. By 2007 and 2008, the bid rigging and price fixing was so pervasive that distressed homeowners were charged the statutory maximum interest rate on nearly every property tax lien sold; and tax the buyers did not submit competitive bids to lower rates. BATHON participated in this bid rigging and price fixing scheme and permitted the collusion by structuring the tax sale to reward tax buyers who were also campaign contributors. BATHON utilized a seating chart to ensure that his contributors were recognized by the auctioneer as winning bidders, he eliminated the competitive bidding process and instituted a “no trailing bid” policy that effectively eliminated interest rate competition, and he directed the auctioneer to disperse the winning bids between his largest campaign contributors. Certain tax buyers, including JOHN VASSEN, made increased campaign contributions to BATHON so that he would continue structuring the tax sale in a way that maximized the interest rate at Madison County tax sales.
This case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service and the Fairview Heights Field Office of the Springfield Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The prosecution of the case is being handled by United States Attorney Stephen R. Wigginton and Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Weinhoeft.