Bankruptcy Fraud Lawyers
The federal government provides bankruptcy laws to provide some protections to people who are struggling with significant amounts of debt. Sometimes, however, people knowingly abuse those allowances through false claims on their bankruptcy filings, intentionally concealing or transferring assets to hide them from creditors. In these situations, you might be charged with federal bankruptcy fraud. If you’ve been charged with bankruptcy fraud, there can be significant penalties assessed if convicted, including possible fines and imprisonment for as much as five years.
Because federal bankruptcy cases are complex and serious, you need a criminal defense lawyer who is experienced in federal cases. Contact us today to see how we can help you or your loved one.
What does bankruptcy fraud involve?
Bankruptcy fraud covers a wide variety of offenses that could be committed in a bankruptcy case, such as Chapter 7, Chapter 11, or Chapter 13. The crime involves a petitioner filing for bankruptcy protection, in a plot or scheme to defraud their creditors. The crime could be charged against anyone who makes false claims or representations in relationship to bankruptcy proceedings.
The laws addressing bankruptcy fraud were developed to ensure honest, transparent bankruptcy proceedings, helping ensure that unpaid creditors receive as much of their money as possible. When someone commits fraud, such as hiding assets or transferring them to another person’s name (such as a friend or family member), this unfairly reduces the amount the creditor can receive.
U.S. Code § 157 says that bankruptcy fraud is when someone does one or more of the following intentionally to defraud their creditors:
* Files a fraudulent involuntary petition
* Makes a fraudulent or false claim, representation, or promise regarding a proceeding
Some of the unlawful acts that may result in federal bankruptcy charges include the following:
* Falsifying bankruptcy forms
* Transferring or concealing assets to avoid having them distributed to creditors
* Bribing court officials
* Committing perjury (lying under oath)
* Destroying or concealing records
* Embezzling from the estate
* Filing for bankruptcy in multiple jurisdictions
* Filing for bankruptcy using multiple identities
Bankruptcy fraud penalties
In general, federal guidelines for bankruptcy fraud indicate a maximum fine of $250,000 and/or prison time up to five years for individuals in federal court. In addition to these penalties, being convicted of bankruptcy fraud means your debts won’t be discharged. Bankruptcy Code Section 523(a)(2)(A) bans discharging any debt that is obtained through false pretenses or fraud. This means that your filing would be dismissed, you’d still owe the debts, and you’d be prohibited from filing bankruptcy again for a certain length of time.
Also, some bankruptcy fraud schemes include additional illegal acts such as tax fraud, mail fraud, and/or wire fraud, so you could be facing charges for these acts as well. Each of these charges would carry its own penalties, so you could be facing significant life-altering penalties.
How we can help defend you against bankruptcy fraud charges
Due to the large amounts of money that can be involved, the federal government aggressively prosecutes bankruptcy fraud cases. They hope to make an example of wrongdoers in hopes of discouraging others from committing fraud. Authorities carefully review filings and proceedings to identify potential signs of fraud or wrongdoing. If they suspect fraudulent activity, they refer to the issue to the FBI or the U.S. Attorney’s office. Even if you’re not charged with a crime, it could disrupt your filing while they investigate the matter. For this reason, you should contact an attorney as soon as you find out your case is under investigation.
Although the charges and penalties for federal bankruptcy fraud are serious, the government still has to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to convict you. One of the key points in a fraud case is intent to deceive. If you made a mistake in your filing or unknowingly violated the rules, the government may not be able to convict you. Common defenses might include the following:
* Mistake – A failure to disclose assets was accidental.
* Legitimate purpose – If you had a lawful purpose for your action, such as selling
* Withdrawing the filing – You corrected the error or admitted your mistake soon after filing.
* Statute of limitations – The timespan to prosecute has elapsed.
* Intent – You did not mean to commit fraud.
* Insufficient evidence – The prosecution doesn’t have enough evidence to prove their case.
Hiring a criminal defense attorney
Bankruptcy fraud is a complicated crime, and defending you in federal court requires you to have an experienced lawyer. You need someone who thoroughly understands bankruptcy laws, federal criminal laws, sentencing guidelines, and federal court proceedings. Because of aggressive prosecution, you might be charged with bankruptcy fraud, and even conviction, without even knowing that you broke the law. Examples might include accidentally omitting assets, filing incomplete forms, or transferring assets without meaning to defraud.
Whatever your circumstances, you need a sound strategy to defend yourself, and that’s how we can help. We have the experienced attorneys who take bankruptcy fraud seriously and know how to defend you.
Cornell Law: https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/bankruptcy_fraud