Monthly Archives: April 2014

Bankruptcy Attorneys Being Naughty

I don’t think that anyone truly thinks that fraud and actions to cover up fraud don’t exist in our world. I myself have spent many times around the watercooler at my job, talking with co-workers about the lengths that people go to in order to make it that their illegal actions don’t see the light of day. What we are blown away by are stories where attorneys are doing the illegal activities to help their client who has been fraudulent in the first place. The last blog post sparked our interest in these sorts of situations.

And they do happen.

The good news for those of us who think there is no hope for a system where these things are tolerated by the very officers who are entrusted with the care of that system, is that they often times get caught. That is the subject of my post: those naughty bankruptcy attorneys.

Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 9011 provides guidance about an attorney’s filings:

“The attorney “is certifying that to the best of the person’s knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances” that the information presented by the attorney to the court is such.

So you can’t just upload things just because you feel like it, and you can’t to purposefully cause delay, and you can’t to try to increase the cost of litigations, and you can’t make allegations unless you have evidentiary support for them. So actually I wrote it wrong to say “you can’t”. You CAN, but doing so will subject you to sanctions, and a nice big fat Order for Show Cause that starts the ball rolling. Bankruptcy courts can impose sanctions in three situations: where papers that are submitted demonstrate factual frivolity, legal frivolity, or where papers are submitted for an ‘improper purpose.’ Attorneys have been penalized by the bankruptcy court for their actions.  THIS case involves sanctions against an attorney who advised their client not to disclose assets. And THIS case shows the importance of the attorney having information to back up their claims, and what happens when your client contradicts their facts to save themselves.
At all times once an attorney is retained as their counsel, it is THEY who are running the show and are responsible for authenticity of information on schedules. It doesn’t work to say you believed what your client told you about the amount in their accounts or their income amount, if you don’t get the statements to corroborate what they’ve said. Attorneys are responsible for doing discovery on their clients’ information BEFORE filing things in the court about them. Not that you can’t do that, but if you do, it is your ass in the sling swinging in front of the Judge at your Show Cause hearing. It’s also a no-no to repeatedly submit unconfirmable plans (see Dahlgren v. Palone case), and to do so in a deliberate attempt to multiply or delay proceedings subjects the attorney to sanctions also. It’s a privilege to operate in the court, and if you abuse it by being negligent, too bad for you (see Thao Tran).

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that an attorney’s show cause hearing isn’t the place for them to lie about what or why they did what they did. Ask Kathy Cruz, who put wrong information on schedules that affected funds available to creditors, mischaracterized monies in order to obtain confirmation for their client, and then made misrepresentations in her show cause hearing to the Judge about her actions. Fines, mandatory reeducation and suspension of practice for 6 months. Was that little money your client gave you really worth all of that, Kathy? Kathy isn’t alone. If attorneys think they can get one over on a determined Judge, just look at this case, also found on the internet, involving what at first was an attorney not using Federal upload system in accordance with the Rules:

Download (PDF, 127KB)

There is a blog post found HERE, where an attorney asks “what has happened to honesty in the Bar, for Pete’s sake?” We applaud any avenues that exist to bring out and showcase the fraudulent behavior of clients hell-bent on committing bankruptcy fraud, and their attorneys who are determined to “win” by any means necessary to help them.  At some point, it becomes clear that your client is committing fraud, and an attorney that keeps walking beside them to help them do it… well, hopefully they don’t mind their character and reputation being judged accordingly.  Birds of a feather, do tend to flock together!

We Would All Hide Assets And Ride Off Into the Sunset of Retirement

That’s what the U.S. Attorney said to the jury for the trial in Federal court of a woman charged with committing Social Security and Bankruptcy fraud. What follows is a writeup of a woman who was caught doing the very things that I’ve seen happen in a bankruptcy case that I am involved in. I have been wondering what the possible penalties are for people who actually get caught and charged, and the story of Sheryl Bruner provides some guidance.

Poor Bruner. An upstanding woman who was receiving disability pay and trying to be a good citizen, but whom was overwhelmed with her bills and debts. She filed for bankruptcy protection to try to get that “Fresh Start” that all Americans are entitled to seek. Only, Bruner wasn’t the poor soul that she painted herself to be in her bankruptcy petition.

I’ll let you read the linked story found on Fraud of the Day’s website, found HERE, to read Larry’s take on the story. She was running companies, lying on her Social Security recertification statements about her activities, and concealing assets such as a TD Ameritrade account; a stash of money in her house; bank accounts not on schedules, assets not disclosed, etc. Ah, so people DO get charged with bankruptcy fraud for doing those things! When I read about her car, paid for in cash, I almost thought I was experiencing dejavu! When I read that she thought she didn’t have to disclose things about her assets and activities that were involved with her LLC, I knew it was dejavu.

Gotta love when someone tries to throw their attorney under the bus by saying that they did something or filed something that they weren’t aware of (which is malpractice). Gotta love even more the prosecuting attorney who plays an audio tape of the debtor’s statement in their meeting of creditors that confirms what all debtors are asked: did you see, read and sign your petition? YES, she did. And no Sheryl, it doesn’t work to try to allege that your lawyers were shady if you didn’t complain to what is known here in Maryland as the Attorney Grievance Commission. Her lawyer, who tried to “defend” his client by essentially defaming her bankruptcy counsel, said that he was doing so because of his obligation to his client. The U.S. District Judge that heard the case was not convinced, reporting that she was going to investigate the matter and hold the defense attorney accountable for his actions.

Apparently, Ms. Bruner thought she could try to hide behind the fabricated actions of someone else in order to try to cast doubt regarding what were HER fraudulent actions. Pay attention: it is the debtor’s responsibility to ensure that the information contained on the bankruptcy petition is correct prior to the attorney uploading it to the Federal docket. The attorney only knows what their client tells them, which is why they are supposed to get the statements from the client that shows the truth. If a client decides to withhold info from their lawyer, then it is the CLIENT who is committing fraud. Doesn’t matter if you amend your schedules later to add things because you found out that questions were being asked. That’s called Trying to Feign Compliance After Your Crime. The jury didn’t buy it, and it took about two hours for them to convict her. You can read HERE for another perspective about this story.

The U.S. Attorney said that the woman “never misses an opportunity to game the system”. Unfortunate that she had to put her retirement and freedom at risk by being so greedy. More unfortunate that she, like others, think they can continue to use that same system to try to get them out of the trouble resulting from that gaming/fraud. Larry wrote “Compulsive lying got this fraudster into a heap of trouble that will most certainly give her plenty of time behind bars to work on breaking her bad habit.” In my experience with someone with similar tendencies, some habits can’t be broken. Especially if the person has no remorse, and believes that they only thing “wrong” is that they got caught.

For those that asked for information regarding the fraud charges Bruner faced, here is the indictment:

Download (PDF, 298KB)

And here is more about her seized money, and what she tried to do with it:

Download (PDF, 223KB)

 

You can find more about her various filings in her defense of the charges by doing an internet search. You will see them all.

It is STILL the case that…

We can all help one another stop bankruptcy fraud

Maryland Insurance Fraud Raises Rates

Insurance is mandatory for a homeowner to have on a house that has a mortgage. You won’t be able to go to settlement without having an insurance policy (if you have a lender), and if you lose the coverage, it will be placed forcibly by the mortgage company. Every homeowner’s policy is priced in accordance with where the house is located, what is in the house, what materials it is made of, and who the homeowner is. In addition, your premium depends on the overall cost of doing business for the insurance company.

It is therefore in the best interests of the homeowners to be vigilant in their claims process, since it ultimately will affect them financially in the long run. I would also say that it is in the best interests of the insurance companies to be equally vigilant. They seem to agree. Insurance fraud is estimated to be increasing household insurance premiums by an average of $1000 per year.

In the state of Maryland, the Maryland Insurance Administration is, according to its’ website, an “independent state agency that regulates Maryland’s insurance industry and protects consumers by enforcing insurance laws.” One of their responsibilities is to “Investigate acts of insurance fraud”. So what is insurance fraud? It happens when someone files a false claim for damages, or does something to deceive an insurance company in order to profit financially. I should know. I am indirectly involved in something that looks like fraud to me.

I was notified about an alleged fire that happened at one of the houses I co-own. Except I wasn’t told about it until I was asked to sign the insurance payout check. Supposedly, a fire happened next door, causing electrical damage to our property. Supposedly, a guy was paid to put new electrical wiring into the damaged house, and fix the walls he was going to have to tear out in order to do so. The receipt I was provided to substantiate the claim differed from the other two versions that had been provided to other parties (one being the insurance company themselves). They had been obviously altered with whiteout by someone. This was just the start of trouble.

I couldn’t quite figure out how a claim was paid on a policy that bore two names, with only one person’s signature approving the claim. The Maryland Fair Plan, which is the insurance company, said (when I pressed the issue) that they actually only needed ONE signature in order to process the claim. Okay, if you say so, though it sounds wrong. But then there was the matter of HOW and WHY did the insurance company leave off the name of our mortgagee from the insurance check? When there is a lien on your car, or a mortgage on your home, the insurance claim check is made out to ALL parties who have an interest in the property. Meaning, your car loan or house note company is going to be on the check. Yet, it wasn’t done in this situation. Hmmm.

What was the most troubling part is when I found out that the electrical work hadn’t actually been done in the kitchen of the house (majority of fire damage), which caused the house to fail its’ inspection with the Housing Choice Voucher folks in Baltimore, which triggered the tenant to be issued a voucher to move (which she did). Clearly, the electrical work that the insurance company thought was done, hadn’t actually been done. Yet, a claim worth almost $4000 had been paid out as if it had been done.

When I tried to inform the insurance company that I was uncomfortable with the circumstances regarding the alleged fire, alleged damages, alleged electrical work, my missing signature, and the mortgage company’s missing name, they acted as if they didn’t understand why I had a problem with any of it. Almost like those sorts of things are routine for them.

“..deceive an insurance company in order to make money”, that’s what the site says. When it looks like fraud, reads like fraud, it likely IS fraud. If that was routine for insurance companies, Why? Do they have any responsibility? They do, if they won’t even take their own policyholders seriously, who are telling them that something is not right. Maybe it needs to be like the story below to get their attention. In the meantime, it got my attention, since my insurance premiums have been raised as a result of the greed of another. See HERE.

You’ll notice in the story, these words: “in good faith — accepted Levonian’s word.” Perhaps that was the largest part of the problem, as this site continues to point out.

For you, Maryland Joint Insurance:

http://www.nytimes.com/1993/07/19/nyregion/a-failure-to-battle-fraud-bleeds-empire-of-millions.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

http://www.propertycasualty360.com/2013/08/26/where-theres-smoke-theres-fire-red-flags?t=education-training