Bankruptcy is supposed to promise a fresh start, but if you find yourself accused of bankruptcy fraud, you could face a serious federal offense. Bankruptcy fraud can carry up to five years in prison, plus prevent you from getting any debt relief in bankruptcy court. Don’t let one accusation ruin years of your life. You need a Los Angeles bankruptcy fraud lawyer.
At the Simmrin Law Group, we have a legal team dedicated to helping accused of federal crimes like bankruptcy fraud. We take your side and fight to get you the best possible outcome—which may mean no prison time, a less serious charge or simply winning your case. Let us give you a free consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.
What is bankruptcy fraud?
The U.S. Bankruptcy Code is a set of laws that offers people a way to a way to get relief from their debts. If you owe more money than you can repay, you can file for individual bankruptcy protection under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 of the code. Businesses can file for protection under Chapters 7 or 11.
A bankruptcy case starts with filing a petition with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Petitions are accompanied by lengthy schedules showing all your assets, income and debts. These must be accurate or you could expose yourself to bankruptcy fraud charges.
Bankruptcy fraud occurs when someone intentionally provides false information or otherwise abuses the process, usually with the goal of financial gain. It can include:
- Filing false or fraudulent documents,
- Concealing information (such as assets), or
- Making false claims in a bankruptcy case.
Under bankruptcy fraud law, even relatively minor inaccuracies can count against you. For example, you could be prosecuted based on:
- The bankruptcy petition itself,
- Any document supporting the bankruptcy petition, or
- Making a false or fraudulent statement (or false promise) in a bankruptcy proceeding.
Technically, even people who are not filing for bankruptcy themselves can be guilty, if they falsified information for a supporting document in the case.
You can be found guilty of bankruptcy fraud if you intentionally concealed assets, destroyed or hid paperwork or records, or made sworn statements that aren’t true.
However, in order to be convicted, the prosecution has to prove that you used some kind of “scheme or artifice” with the intent of fraud.
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What does it mean to use a “scheme or artifice” to defraud?
It means you planned to deceive or defraud someone through your bankruptcy filing.
Here is how it works:
- The “scheme or artifice” is another word for a plan. If you didn’t plan or intent to defraud, you aren’t guilty.
- To be convicted, you must have intended to follow through on your plan, or you must have been hiding something.
- One example of this is placing money in an offshore account and not mentioning it in your bankruptcy petition. This makes it seem as though you have fewer assets than you have, allowing you to keep money for yourself instead of paying it to your creditors.
- Another type of plan is filing forged documents or altered bank statements in support of your petition.
- The “artifice” could also involve making a false statement in a sworn declaration, or in a proceeding with your bankruptcy trustee.
Remember: bankruptcy fraud laws are meant to protect banks and creditors. They are not designed to protect the person filing for bankruptcy. The result is that innocent people get accused of bankruptcy fraud simply because they made a mistake or didn’t understand the complicated bankruptcy system.
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What defenses can I use against bankruptcy fraud?
If you are charged with bankruptcy fraud, your lawyers can use a number of different legal defenses to break down the prosecution’s case. Some of the most common defenses in bankruptcy fraud cases include:
- Lack of intent. Bankruptcies can be complicated. There’s a lot of information involved, and it’s common for people to make mistakes when filling out paperwork. If your attorney can show that you acted in good faith and did not mean to make misstatements or deceive anyone, you have a strong defense to the charge.
- Lack of evidence.In all federal crimes, the U.S. Attorney’s Office bears the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of all the elements of the offense. This is a difficult burden to meet. By attacking the government’s evidence, your lawyer may win your case by showing that the prosecutor simply doesn’t have enough evidence to convict you.
- Law enforcement misconduct.Sometimes, charges can be dropped if there were problems with the way the police gathered evidence. Illegal searches and seizures and other illegal types of investigative techniques are examples. Or the police may simply have mishandled evidence. Your lawyer can investigate what happened in your case and aggressively pursue this defense if appropriate.
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What are the penalties for bankruptcy fraud?
Bankruptcy fraud is a serious crime, punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison or a fine, or both.
If you are convicted of bankruptcy fraud, you may also face a damaged reputation, and you will still have to deal with the debts that led you to file bankruptcy in the first place—with no hope for relief from the bankruptcy court.
Federal prosecutors have the time, expertise and resources to prosecute a bankruptcy fraud case to its fullest. You can put yourself on a more equal footing by getting help from a federal crimes lawyer as soon as you know you might face criminal charges.
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Talk to a Los Angeles Bankruptcy Fraud Lawyer for Free
If your bankruptcy filing has led to federal charges, you need help immediately. The Simmrin Law Group has a team of lawyers who have built their careers on defending against bankruptcy fraud and other federal crimes. Don’t be outmanned by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Let us give you a FREE consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.