Best efforts in Bathon case? Not at all

April 24, 2013 

How disappointing that the taxpayer-victims of Madison County Treasurer Fred Bathon's tax auction bid-rigging scheme are getting just a partial measure of justice.

Yes, Bathon pleaded guilty and faces prison time, but federal Judge David R. Herndon excused prosecutors from setting up a restitution system.

"The government has exercised its 'best efforts' to accord crime victims their rights," prosecutors told Herndon.

No, best efforts would have put a dollar value on the losses.

Really, what was so difficult about making those calculations? The government knows this scheme cost taxpayers about $4 million -- as prosecutors put it, from excess interest payments collected by tax buyers -- and that 7,119 tax liens were purchased in connection with the scheme. It knows the interest rates taxpayers were charged, and can estimate what a reasonable interest rate would have been. It seems just a matter of doing the math.

Don't get us wrong, it's wonderful that the U.S. attorney prosecuted this case and got a guilty plea. But without the restitution component, the government's best just isn't good enough.

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