If you are the victim of fraud – Someone has used your identity, stolen your property or money and your are NOT yourself being investigated or charged with a crime, you should report this crime to the police. We defend people accused of committing fraud, not people who have been defrauded.
Bankruptcy is a legal process aimed at providing individuals experiencing financial hardship some relief from overwhelming debt. Because of the large amounts of money typically involved in Chapter 7, Chapter 13 and Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings, federal authorities will scrutinize bankruptcy proceedings for any signs of fraud or wrongdoing, and any indication of a scheme to defraud may result in a criminal investigation and indictment for bankruptcy fraud. Whether the case involves a deliberate intent to commit fraud or a mistake made in a bankruptcy petition, bankruptcy fraud is a serious federal offense and defending yourself against bankruptcy fraud charges demands the skill and expertise of a federal criminal defense lawyer.
At Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers, we have a clear understanding of the federal laws related to bankruptcy fraud and have established a reputation for providing reliable legal representation to debtors, creditors, bankruptcy trustees and others facing federal bankruptcy fraud allegations. Whether your fraud case involves a Chapter 7, Chapter 11 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing, you can rely on our defense attorneys to protect your rights and help guide you through the federal investigation and, when necessary, during any criminal proceeding as well.
Federal Bankruptcy Fraud Charges
Individuals or companies struggling under the burden of unpayable debt often decide to file for bankruptcy in order to eliminate their debt or make a plan to repay the debts over time. Filing for bankruptcy can be a complicated process and it is not unusual for filers to miscalculate or misstate assets, either intentionally or unintentionally, which may result in a charge of bankruptcy fraud.
Bankruptcy fraud is a white-collar crime occurring any time a person commits a dishonest act in connection with a bankruptcy filing. This can include a debtor concealing assets to avoid being forced to forfeit the assets, filing false or incomplete bankruptcy forms, filing for bankruptcy multiple times in several jurisdictions, or even bribing a court-appointed bankruptcy trustee.
The most common form of bankruptcy fraud occurs when a debtor conceals or attempts to conceal or undervalue assets so the bankruptcy trustee can’t or won’t seize them. The second most common form of bankruptcy fraud occurs when a debtor misrepresents income or expenses in order to fraudulently qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy or to reduce his Chapter 13 bankruptcy payments. There are other ways for debtors to commit bankruptcy fraud and it is also possible for creditors, bankruptcy trustees, court officials and others to be charged with federal bankruptcy fraud.
18 U.S. Code § 157 – Bankruptcy Fraud
The primary federal statute covering bankruptcy fraud offenses is 18 U.S. Code § 157, which states that any person who, “having devised or intending to devise a scheme or artifice to defraud and for the purpose of executing or concealing such a scheme or artifice or attempting to do so — (1) files a petition under title 11, including a fraudulent involuntary petition under section 303 of such title; (2) files a document in a proceeding under title 11; or (3) makes a false or fraudulent representation, claim, or promise concerning or in relation to a proceeding under title 11, at any time before or after the filing of the petition, or in relation to a proceeding falsely asserted to be pending under such title,” is guilty of bankruptcy fraud.
18 U.S. Code § 152 – Concealment of Assets, False Oaths and Claims, Bribery
Bankruptcy fraud can also be prosecuted under 18 U.S. Code § 152, the federal statute that prohibits certain behavior prior to and during a bankruptcy proceeding, including knowingly and fraudulently concealing assets, withholding information from the bankruptcy trustee, or making false statements.
Penalties for Bankruptcy Fraud Charges
All fraud offenses are taken very seriously by the federal government and that includes bankruptcy fraud. As such, a violation of 18 U.S. Code § 157 or § 152 can lead to serious, potentially life-altering consequences, possibly including incarceration in federal prison, substantial fines and other penalties.
If you are found guilty of bankruptcy fraud in violation of federal law, you can face a fine of up to $250,000 and/or a prison sentence not to exceed five years. Even just attempting to commit bankruptcy fraud may be punishable under federal law, even if you don’t actually commit the fraud. If the bankruptcy fraud charges against you are tied to other criminal offenses, such as mortgage fraud, identity theft or money laundering, you could face additional criminal charges and penalties if you are convicted of these other crimes.
It is also important to note that Section 523(a)(2)(A) of the Bankruptcy Code provides an exception from the discharge of any debt for money, property services, or an extension, renewal or refinancing of credit that is obtained by false representation, false pretenses or actual fraud.
Defending Against Bankruptcy Fraud Charges
Being charged with any federal crime can be a frightening and stressful experience but facing charges for a fraud offense is a particularly serious matter, one that comes with devastating penalties. The federal government views fraud-related crimes as major offenses and it has the time and resources necessary to investigate these crimes and punish offenders harshly. However, while federal prosecutors can file criminal charges against any person suspected of committing bankruptcy fraud – debtors, creditors, bankruptcy trustees, etc. – they cannot secure a conviction without proving that the defendant knowingly and fraudulently misrepresented a material fact.
Whatever the circumstances of your bankruptcy fraud case, you will need a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer on your side who can present an alternative explanation for the prosecution’s evidence and show the judge and jury that you are innocent of the crime, and that is where our federal criminal defense attorneys at Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers come in. No matter how complex your bankruptcy fraud case may be, our legal team will work diligently to show the court that it was not your intent to commit fraud and that a conviction is not appropriate. Retaining the services of an experienced defense attorney will go a long way towards helping you fight the federal charges and avoid harsh criminal penalties.
With years of experience defending clients against federal fraud charges, our defense lawyers know which legal strategy is likely to get the best possible result in your bankruptcy fraud case. The following are some common defenses against bankruptcy fraud:
• Insufficient evidence – The prosecution does not have enough evidence to prove that you committed a crime
• Lack of intent – You did not intend to commit fraud
• Withdrawal or renunciation – You corrected the bankruptcy paperwork soon after you discovered the error or regretted the decision to exclude the asset deliberately
• Legitimate purpose – The bankruptcy fraud offense you are accused of committing was actually an action taken to accomplish a lawful or legitimate purpose, such as selling an asset for half its value in order to take advantage of a tax deduction
• Mistake – Your failure to list a valuable asset or disclose the transfer of an asset in your bankruptcy petition was an unintentional error, not fraud
What to Do When Facing Federal Bankruptcy Fraud Charges
In recent years, it has become more common for individuals in debt to misrepresent or conceal, or attempt to misrepresent or conceal, assets during bankruptcy proceedings, particularly in light of the recent economic downturn.
As a result of growing concerns about attempts to defeat the Bankruptcy Act, allegations of bankruptcy fraud are taken very seriously by federal authorities, and those found guilty of this offense are at risk for stiff penalties under federal law.
When facing federal charges for bankruptcy fraud, it can be difficult to know where to turn for help. Whether you committed a bankruptcy fraud offense intentionally or by mistake, you can face a criminal investigation and prosecution at the federal level, which can adversely impact virtually every aspect of your life.
The federal government is a formidable opponent in any criminal case and with so much at stake, it is imperative that you seek legal guidance from an experienced lawyer who can fight the fraud charges on your behalf. The sooner you hire an attorney with a proven track record of success handling federal bankruptcy fraud cases to defend you against your charges, the stronger your case will be.
Consult Our Federal Bankruptcy Fraud Defense Attorneys Today
Bankruptcy fraud is a unique white-collar crime carrying severe, potentially life-changing criminal penalties, including a possible term of imprisonment of up to five years, to be imposed in addition to any other penalties levied by the court for related crimes, such as money laundering or identity theft.
If you or someone you love is facing federal bankruptcy fraud charges or if you are under investigation for bankruptcy fraud by federal authorities and are in need of a competent attorney with experience handling these types of cases, look no further than Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers. Our team of top-rated criminal defense lawyers has earned a reputation for providing dedicated and compassionate legal representation to those accused of bankruptcy fraud and other fraud offenses, and we will work tirelessly to help you get the outcome you deserve in your case.
Our law firm is based in San Diego and we represent clients in federal cases throughout California and the United States, so don’t hesitate to call. Schedule your free initial consultation today and find out how we can help.