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Bankruptcy Basics - Part 6: Bankruptcy Crime

The following program was produced by the United States Courts.

A debtor must be very accurate in his or her dealings with the Court including filling out the Statement of Financial Affairs and schedules accurately. These papers, and a debtor's testimony of the 341 meeting, are sworn to under penalty of perjury. There can be severe consequences for violating this duty. Let's hear from a bankruptcy judge,. Judge Paul M. Glenn.

Bankruptcy is not a step to be taken lightly or casually. It's a serious event. It has some real benefits. I mean it will help people save their homes. It will help people to relieve themselves from overwhelming debt, but along with those benefits, there are some serious responsibilities that go along. There's a petition and financial statements that have to be filed when a person files their bankruptcy case and these are signed under oath. These are sworn documents. They’re under oath and under penalty of perjury. Sometimes people will transfer vehicles or personal property or things to their relatives or their parents or their kin to hold for the for a period of time while they go through bankruptcy. That is clearly a non disclosure of assets and is a bankruptcy fraud. So any transfers that have been made within the last period of time have to be disclosed on the schedules. In addition to the oath that goes along with the signature all the papers are signed under one of the rules of the bankruptcy courts, and that is the signature is a certification that to the best of the person's knowledge and information and belief the representations are accurate. The facts are accurate. The consequences of not being candid and not being truthful on the schedules there is a criminal law that says that if anyone files a petition or files a document that makes a false or fraudulent representation then they are subject to criminal prosecution which provides for fines or imprisonment even up to five years or both of those. So it's a it's a serious crime if there are material misstatements that could be prosecuted. The consequences of fudging are just too severe to risk. You risk the discharge.

You risk committing a crime, and the chances are likely that you'll get caught because the trustees who review these schedules in the trustees meetings review thousands, and they and they see thousands of people. They know the questions to ask. The questions that they ask in a meeting have to be responded to under oath and and then creditors come to the meeting and creditors are able to have their input as well. The likelihood that non-disclosures will be found and if they are then there are serious consequences to their sloppiness and gross negligence are among those criteria that will lead to the conclusion that the emission is intentional. Take your time, get it right, and be honest.

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