West Palm Beach Bankruptcy Fraud Attorney

When you need potent federal criminal defense, count on Ohle Law P.A.

Bankruptcy exists as a means of granting relief to people who believe they have accumulated more debt than they can afford to pay in a timely manner. There are many valid reasons people file for bankruptcy. Going through a divorce, sudden job loss, being out of work due to a medical expense, or being affected by a natural disaster can result in a person accumulating a large amount of debt and having difficulty paying the bills. During the bankruptcy process, the filer is required to disclose his or her assets and expenses. Then a judge determines which debts will be repaid. If the filer is dishonest at any point in bankruptcy proceedings, he or she has committed bankruptcy fraud, a white collar federal offense that is punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and/or a maximum prison sentence of five years. Third parties may also be charged with bankruptcy fraud for knowingly receiving assets the filer is attempting to hide from creditors and the judge who presides over the case. A few general actions that constitute bankruptcy fraud include:

  • concealing assets
  • destroying bank records
  • understating income
  • overstating expenses

Arrested on a federal charge?

Speak with an attorney immediately. Don’t say anything that might incriminate yourself.

Examples of bankruptcy fraud

There are many, many ways a person can commit bankruptcy fraud. Selling property to friends and family members is a common method. If a person is in debt and sells his or her boat and favorite cars to friends and family members prior to filing, he or she has committed bankruptcy fraud if the sale was made with the intent to reclaim the property at a later date. A bankruptcy judge may particularly be tipped off if the sale prices are much lower than the market value of each item. Another example of bankruptcy fraud is the act of maxing out credit cards by buying items and taking cash advances then filing bankruptcy. A person who opens or uses credit accounts with no intention of ever paying the money back may also potentially be accused of credit card fraud. Some fraudsters file for bankruptcy in multiple locations in a deliberate effort to delay the proceedings. There are even cases in which bankruptcy filers bribe the trustee who is appointed to protect the interest of the creditors.

Proving bankruptcy fraud

Like all criminal cases, the burden of proof in bankruptcy cases is on the government. Therefore, prosecutors must establish the defendant’s culpability beyond a reasonable doubt. If the jury has doubts regarding any of the required elements of a bankruptcy case, the jury cannot convict the defendant. In bankruptcy cases that involve the debtor allegedly engaging in deception, the prosecutor is required to prove the debtor made a misrepresentation or false statement with the intent to deceive or delay the court or creditors.

Preventing a bankruptcy fraud charge before it happens

The best way to avoid being accused of bankruptcy fraud is to avoid making false statements. Cases in which a defendant innocently misrepresents his or her income, assets, or expenses can easily be rectified if the defendant has maintained solid record-keeping practices. Carefully recording income and expenses can help eliminate uncertainty regarding income reporting. This is especially true for self-employed individuals or people who provide services on a freelance basis. Cash payments as well as electronic transfers should all be recorded. Individuals who plan to file for bankruptcy should preemptively audit their expenses. The judge will want to know where the person’s money goes. Performing an audit before filing will help provide clearer answers to those questions. People who are more hands-on and decide to take a microscopic look at their finances are less likely to make reporting errors, and even if they do make an error, the mistake can be corrected in a timely manner before the situation escalates into a formal fraud accusation.

Defenses against a bankruptcy fraud charge

There are multiple reasons a person may be acquitted on a charge of bankruptcy fraud. In some instances, a person may misstate his or her assets, income, or expenses as a result of making an honest clerical error or because he or she legitimately forgot he or she had an interest in an asset or made extra money one month. A person may have legitimately sold an asset for valid reasons that only appear suspicious on the surface and can be explained. Because no two bankruptcy cases are exactly alike, a West Palm Beach bankruptcy lawyer’s approach to defending his or her clients will vary from case to case.

Calling a West Palm Beach bankruptcy fraud defense lawyer

The penalties for bankruptcy fraud can easily disrupt a person’s life. Therefore, charges and accusations should be taken seriously. Therefore, anyone who is being accused of bankruptcy fraud in West Palm Beach should immediately contact a Florida bankruptcy fraud defense lawyer to learn more about the best potential ways to respond to the serious federal charge. A West Palm Beach bankruptcy defense attorney will examine the facts of the case, gather evidence, and even utilize character references to demonstrate a wrongfully accused defendant’s lack of intent to commit fraud. Having the benefit of trustworthy, qualified legal counsel also means not having to face the federal government alone. Federal judges and prosecutors are among the most accomplished and experienced legal professionals. Therefore, defendants in federal cases require the help of a defense attorney who has the professionalism and proven track record to be able to successfully defend a client in federal court.