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

16 thoughts on “We Would All Hide Assets And Ride Off Into the Sunset of Retirement

  1. Boxing Great 2

    There should be a mandatory checkup of people that claim disability, to make sure that they aren’t committing fraud. They should just know that they will likely be checked.

  2. Dead Ringer

    Rock. Hard place. That’s where you are when all of your dough has been fraudulently squirreled away in your house and you can’t admit it to anyone because you’ll face jailtime.

  3. It's Pitt baby

    I pity the lawyer who thinks they can come up against the strong arm of the US Attorney’s office. Let this be a lesson to bankruptcy attorneys everywhere! Woot!

  4. The Chameleon

    So pretty much, the woman had funds stashed in her house, didn’t think it would get found, it was found and confiscated and she said it wasn’t hers, and then she tried to ask that it get released, but because she said it wasn’t hers (to avoid fraud charge) it couldn’t get released. You have to love the law!

  5. Ultimate Adventure

    Honestly, I don’t know why they even bother to put the whole under penalty of perjury thing on documents. They should make you do more than SAY that it’s true. They should make you PROVE it. That way, if there are falsified documents, that can be an extra charge to go right along with the initial fraud.

  6. Patch Cable in TX

    I know someone who got caught like this too. Sheriff came right to her house along with the trustee, and knew just what they were looking for. The damn clues were right on her bank statements so they didn’t have to search hard to figure out what she had in her house. Off to jail she went!

  7. Crash and Burn12

    It is really trifling that there are lawyers out there that would essentially crap on the system by coming up with such outlandish games to try to get their client off for crimes they clearly committed. I hope the lawyer does get in trouble for what he did.

  8. Hot Child in the City

    Nice site. There are systems in place for reporting people who do this type of fraud, along with their lawyers helping them to commit it. I think it’s your duty to report it. If you see something, say something, says the government.

  9. Kaylie H

    Maybe the woman had a house underwater, and was using bankruptcy to try to escape responsibility for it. That tax break expired in December that let people avoid the tax on getting rid of their house that you owe a bunch of money on. She probably bought a house that was overpriced, and decided to dump it in bankruptcy. Who wants to be taxed on income from a bad investment?

  10. Link2Letter

    Thanks to one small sentence that was added to the farm bill, the 10 year statute of limitations on going after debts older was lifted. If she thought she was in the clear for that older money, she isn’t. That may be why she was in bankruptcy since it is the only other way you can shied yourself from debts.

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