FBI drops subpoenas at treasurer’s office

TheTelegraph.com on June 13, 2012 released the following:

“By SANFORD J. SCHMIDT
The Telegraph
EDWARDSVILLE – Two FBI agents visited the Madison County Treasurer’s Office Tuesday morning to deliver grand jury subpoenas to two employees.

Current Treasurer Kurt Prenzler said the two employees also worked under former treasurer Fred Bathon. He said he assumed the investigation was about either tax sales or bond purchases. He emphasized that he was only assuming and had no knowledge of what the issue was.

The agents also visited the Madison County Clerk’s Office. A source in that office said they were there because County Clerk Mark Von Nida had previously been critical of Bathon’s handling of tax sales.

Von Nida, who had no direct comment on the matter, is credited with helping switch the sales process to its current setup wherein tax debts are auctioned electronically, allowing a more genuine bidding process and lower bids. The bids under Bathon were consistently at 18 percent, meaning the tax buyers consistently collected 18 percent of each tax debt they recovered.

The agents also were asked the location of Bathon’s personal secretary, but she was not there and is employed in another office, Prenzler, a Republican, said.

In a tax sale, the county auctions off delinquent property tax debts. Tax buyers bid a percentage penalty they may collect on the debt. Once the auction is completed, the successful bidder pays off the debt to the county and attempts to collect the debt, plus the percentage penalty they bid.

The newer system employs a computer system designed to produce a true, spontaneous bid, rather that the 18 percent that applied under Bathon’s term.

The system was in place under Prenzler’s immediate successor, Frank Miles, and the average penalty was 9 percent. The most recent sale under Prenzler was 2.65 percent.

A spokesman for the FBI Springfield office said he could neither confirm nor deny the report.

County officials have also been exchanging criticism over Republican Prenzler’s sale of $41 million in bonds before their call date. The sale resulted in the lost of millions of dollars, his Democratic critics claim.

Prenzler’s supporters say the losses were on paper, only, and that the sale was made because the bonds had a maturity date of more than the county’s 10-year maximum. Prenzler fired two employees over the bond purchases.

Democratic supporters say the bonds were “callable,” meaning they could be sold at a profit before the 10-year term, making them more profitable for the county and, in effect, within the 10-year guideline.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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