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