is for Honesty
By Christopher C. Carr, Esq. Chester County bankruptcy attorney. Tel: 610-380-7969 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: christopherccarrlaw.com
Every potential bankruptcy client needs to understand that it is in his/her best interest to be entirely honest in their dealings with their lawyer, the trustee and the courts. Not only may the debtor harm themself by failing to disclose material information but they may also potentially face severe criminal penalties. The United States bankruptcy laws require the debtor to disclose all income and assets to the bankruptcy court and the court is empowered under applicable federal statutes to uphold the integrity of the system and the participants in it. The theory and practice of these disclosures, is that if accurate and complete, the bankruptcy trustee and the court are able to determine what, if anything, the debtor can afford to repay to the creditors.
The bankruptcy disclosure form which every debtor is required to sign WARNS as follows:
Bankruptcy Crimes and Availability of Bankruptcy Papers to Law Enforcement Officials
A person who knowingly and fraudulently conceals assets or makes a false oath or statement under penalty of perjury, either orally or in writing, in connection with a bankruptcy case is subject to a fine, imprisonment, or both. All information supplied by a debtor in connection with a bankruptcy case is subject to examination by the Attorney General acting through the Office of the United States Trustee, the Office of the United States Attorney, and other components and employees of the Department of Justice.
WARNING: Section 521(a)(1) of the Bankruptcy Code requires that you promptly file detailed information regarding your creditors, assets, liabilities, income, expenses and general financial condition. Your bankruptcy case may be dismissed if this information is not filed with the court within the time deadlines set by the Bankruptcy Code, the Bankruptcy Rules, and the local rules of the court. 
Oftentimes the debtor will unintentionally hurt their case by “shading” the truth based upon an inaccurate understanding of the bankruptcy laws. For example, a debt may not be listed on the petition because the debtor does not wish to reveal it. However, a debt that is not disclosed cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.
One of the great unfounded fears in all of bankruptcy is that the debtor will “lose all their assets in bankruptcy”. Thus, a debtor may fail to reveal an asset which might have been partially or completely exempt and thus unnecessarily face the complete loss of the asset (see below). There are generous exemptions available for many assets especially under the federal statutes and the laws of states like Pennsylvania where I practice law allow debtors to elect these, instead of the far less generous state exemptions. Other states like Florida have homestead exemptions which allow a debtor domiciled in Florida to completely shield their primary residence.
One article provides the following example of this temptation in action and how the result of yielding to it easily can be detected:
“Because cash is difficult to track down, it may be tempting to pile up as much cash as you can before bankruptcy and then “forget” to include the cash on your financial statement that you file with the bankruptcy court. Be forewarned that the bankruptcy code imposes significant civil and criminal penalties on debtor’s who intentionally provide false information to the bankruptcy court. Because the bankruptcy trustee will have access to all your recent history of earnings, bank statements and other financial records, there is a strong likelihood that the trustee will be able to tell if you have attempted to siphon off cash before filing your bankruptcy petition.”
It is thus essential that the debtor reveal all debts, assets and income sources to the lawyer who can then properly advise the debtor on legal protections and issues. If there is any question for example as to whether an item is an asset, the debtor should disclose it and let the lawyer decide how to properly treat it in the petition. Some writers have indicated that such proactivity can help to show that the debtor did not have the requisite intent to commit bankruptcy fraud.
One consequence of failing to disclose income or assets is that the debtor may be denied a bankruptcy discharge and remain liable for all debts under Section 727 of the Bankruptcy Code. Its provisions permit the court to dismiss the debtor’s case for dishonesty on the bankruptcy schedules, hiding assets, failing to maintain financial records, refusing to turn over records, or refusing to cooperate with the trustee. Not only may the court deny the dishonest or uncooperative debtor a discharge under Section 727 but any assets turned over during the case will still be sold by the bankruptcy trustee so that the debtor loses the property without any concomitant bankruptcy benefits.
As is indicated above, the most serious consequence for the debtor of dubious honesty is the prospect of being charged with criminal bankruptcy fraud. Most bankruptcy fraud first comes to the attention of the bankruptcy trustee during the course of the bankruptcy or as a result of “whistle blowing” by neighbors, creditors, or ex-spouses. The IRS under the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation’s Bankruptcy Fraud Program and the US Trustee are the most active in investigating fraud. The Department of Justice Trustee Program encourages individuals to report bankruptcy fraud to the US Department of Justice for further potentially criminal action. The IRS also maintains a whistle blower award program.
The IRS appears to use the Bankruptcy Fraud Program to make examples of egregious miscreants, especially where a case also involves tax fraud or evasion, and consequently has an extremely high conviction rate. For example in 2011, 83% of those who had been charged with bankruptcy fraud are now serving time. In virtually all these cases, the individual was also required to make substantial financial restitution and also were required to serve a period of supervised release.
In addition, just because your bankruptcy is discharged, don’t think that you are off the hook. Individuals who file for relief under Chapter 7
or Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code are subject to audits by the U.S. Trustee. For further information visit the U.S. Trustee site.
The moral of the story? You are filing bankruptcy to get a fresh start. You have little to fear and everything to gain from the process if you are honest and adopt a policy of full disclosure.
Law Offices of Christopher C. Carr, MBA, P.C., is a quality Chester County Bankruptcy Practice, located in Valley Township, west of Coatesville, Pennsylvania, where Attorney Carr, who has over 30 years if diversified experience as an attorney, concentrates his practice on serving the residents of and businesses located within Western Chester County and Eastern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, including the communities in and around Atglen, Bird in Hand, Caln, Christiana, Coatesville, Downingtown, Eagle, Exton, Fallowfield Gap, Honeybrook, Lancaster, Lincoln University, Modena, New Holland, Parkesburg, Paradise, Ronks, Sadsbury, Thorndale, Valley Township, Wagontown & West Chester, Pennsylvania. If you reside or do business in the area and need assistance with a legal issue, please call Mr. Carr at (610)380-7969 or write him at email@example.com today!
 The criminal sanctions can include sentence of up to five years in prison and fines up to $250,000.
Law Offices of Christopher C. Carr, MBA, P.C., is a quality bankruptcy and debt relief practice, located in Valley Township, west of Coatesville, Pennsylvania, where Attorney Christopher Carr, a Chester County bankruptcy attorney, who has over 30 years if diversified ;egal experience, concentrates on serving the residents of and businesses located within Western Chester County and Eastern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, including the communities in and around Atglen, Bird in Hand, Caln, Christiana, Coatesville, Downingtown, Eagle, Exton, Fallowfield Gap, Honeybrook, Lancaster, Lincoln University, Modena, New Holland, Parkesburg, Paradise, Ronks, Sadsbury, Thorndale, Valley Township, Wagontown & West Chester, Pennsylvania. If you reside or do business in the area and need assistance with a legal issue, please call Mr. Carr at (610)380-7969 or write him at firstname.lastname@example.org today!
I also provide Mortgage Modification Services.
For other articles in the nationwide bankruptcy ABC’s series check out these attorneys:
- Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska Bankruptcy Attorney, Ryan D. Caldwell: H is for Hearing.
- New York Bankruptcy Lawyer, Jay S. Fleischman: H is for Household.
- Northern California Bankruptcy Lawyer, Cathy Moran: H is for House, no not the doctor.
- Colorado Springs Bankruptcy Lawyer Bob Doig: H is for Homestead.
- Los Angeles Bankruptcy Attorney, Mark J. Markus: H is for House
- Hilo Bankruptcy Attorney, Stuart T. Ing: H is for Household Size.
- Cleveland and Lorain Count Bankruptcy Attorney, Bill Balena: H is for Honesty
©Christopher C. Carr, Attorney at Law, 2011, 2012, All Rights Reserved
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