EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (Legal Newsline) - Illinois residents are suing St. Clair County Treasure Charles Suarez after they claim he illegally rigged tax sales.
"This lawsuit seeks recovery of losses arising from an illegal and improper agreement and conspiracy between Charles Suarez, the Treasurer of St. Clair County, and certain real estate tax sale purchasers to artificially inflate the amounts Illinois property owners, whose properties were subject to tax sale by the St. Clair County Treasurer for unpaid real estate taxes in 2006 and 2007, would have to pay to redeem their properties and keep title thereto and to illegally rig the tax sales," the complaint states.
John R. Bloyer Jr., Adrianne L. Bloyer, Kevin Dvorak and Kathleen Dvorak claim as a result of the defendants' actions, they and each member of the class they represent were tricked, coerced and/or forced to pay substantially higher amounts to redeem their properties than they would have had to pay absent a conspiracy or were forced to participate in a rigged tax sale, according to a complaint filed Oct. 17 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.
Plaintiffs and the class members are persons who owned property located in St. Clair County that was sold at one or more St. Clair County real estate tax auctions during the years in question and who redeemed that property by paying a "penalty rate" in excess of that which would have been required in the absence of the conspiracy and agreements described below, according to the suit.
The 2006 and 2007 tax sales in St. Clair County were rigged and illegally conducted at said tax sales as a result of the conspiracy of the defendants, according to the suit.
"Defendant...Suarez served as St. Clair County Treasurer at all times relevant to this complaint, specifically from 2000 to the present time," the complaint states. "Suarez is sued individually for acts he took to further his own self interest and also on behalf of St. Clair County..."
Counsel for the plaintiffs have attempted by a Freedom of Information Act request sent pursuant to 5 ILCS 140 to obtain copies of the public official bonds issued on behalf of Suarez both as Treasurer and as County Collector, from 2004 to present, so that it could name the bonding company that issued said surety bonds as an additional defendant, but to date, St. Clair County has failed to produce the documents requested and has thereby denied the FOIA request, according to the suit.
The plaintiffs claim the defendants conspired with a handful of tax buyers to rig St. Clair County tax auctions held in 2006 in 2007 to benefit financially at the expense of taxpayers.
The plaintiffs claim they had to pay thousands of dollars in excessive interest penalties to redeem the tax liens on their homes because of the alleged conspiracy involving Suarez and the tax buyers.
"During the time period covered by litigation, the business activities of defendants and co-conspirators that are the subject of this litigation, were within the flow of and substantially affected, interstate trade and commerce," the complaint states.
Suarez ensured that the tax purchaser defendants were recognized by the auctioneer as winning bidders and directed the auctioneer to disperse the winning bids from the various auctions between such tax purchaser defendants, according to the suit.
The plaintiffs claim as the "decision" of the tax purchaser defendants to only bid the maximum penalty rate amount became evident, the tax sale auction marketplace was negatively affected, and other putative purchasers also began to bid higher than they otherwise would have bid.
"Because there was no or virtually no competitive bidding, the bidding was rigged, prices were fixed, and almost every single property was sold at the statutory maximum penalty percentage of 18%," the complaint states.
The plaintiffs are seeking class certification and compensatory damages. They are represented by Steven C. Giacoletto of Giacoletto Law Office PC; Aaron G. Weishaar and Boris A. Kaupp of Reinert, Weishaar & Associates PC; Nelson L. Mitten of Riezman Berger PC; and John B. Barberis Jr. of the Law Office of John B. Barberis Jr.
St. Clair County, Ill.; St. Clair County Treasurer Charles Suarez; Barrett Rochman; Kenneth Rochman; Sabre Group LLC; S.I. Securities LLC; Dennis Ballinger Sr.; Dennis D. Ballinger Jr.; Empire Tax Corp.; Vista Securities Inc.; John Vassen; Joseph Vassen: VI Inc.: Scott McLean; Land of Lincoln Securities LLC; White Oak Securities LLC; Algonquin Securities LLC; Scott Sieron; Raven Securities Inc.; John W. Scott; and Edward Beasley were all named as defendants in the suit.
The case is assigned to District Judge Staci M. Yandle.
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois case number: 3:14-cv-01119
From Legal Newsline: Kyla Asbury can be reached at email@example.com.