Federal prosecutors have arrested four people in West Virginia for attempted bankruptcy fraud. (According to story reported by WSAZ.com.) Pretty straight forward stuff really. They were all caught attempting to hide assets. The examples listed in the story were concealing income from the sale of real estate in 2003, concealment of a workers compensation claim and collecting disability benefits while concealing employment income by using a false Social Security Number.
What is it with people? It isn’t just these four. One of the most important parts of my job is keeping clients from lying about stuff — generally stupid stuff.
Now, I don’t know much about West Virginia exemptions; but in Oklahoma the proceeds from the 2003 land sale could almost certainly have been protected given a little bit of time. The workers compensation award is just exempt in Oklahoma — regardless of value. Well, until it was concealed. Once you try to conceal an otherwise exempt asset, it loses its exempt nature. Yep, disclose it and keep it; conceal it, and lose it. Oh, and that whole fake Social Security Number thing; is there anyway you could not get caught?
Thou shalt not lie, cheat or steal and file for bankruptcy. Oh, and if you do — I ain’t sharing your jail cell.
So, what exactly is the point of this? These arrests were part of a crackdown by a joint team of US Trustees and US Attorneys. This particular effort was focused on 23 counties in West Virginia. If it happens there, it will happen here. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the W.D. of Oklahoma has traditionally had one of the toughest U.S. Trustees offices when it comes to bankruptcy fraud; and our Trustees are really good at finding things debtors decide to try and hide.
So, repeat after me. Thou shalt not lie, cheat or steal and file for bankruptcy. If you have any questions, ask your Mother to finish teaching you the concept of honesty.