October 19th, 2006 03:49 EST
Operation Targets Bankruptcy Fraud
As part of an ongoing effort to maintain the continued integrity of the U.S. bankruptcy system, the FBI and other federal agencies announced on Wednesday that 78 defendants had been named in bankruptcy fraud cases across the nation in the past two months.
"Our bankruptcy system relies on good faith, it depends on the integrity of the debtor and the idea that there exists a reasonable expectation that those who loan money should be repaid," said James "Chip" Burrus., FBI assistant director for the Criminal Investigative Division.
"The abuse of this system by an individual debtor or a professional within the system undermines not only the rehabilitation aspect, but the integrity of the system as a whole," Burrus said.
Since August 1, the FBI has charged 48 subjects and arrested 11 individuals through "Operation Truth or Consequences." The operation was a joint effort with the U.S. Attorney's Offices, the U.S. Trustee Program, and numerous other federal agencies, and was announced at a press conference on Wednesday.
The public can now submit tips on suspected bankruptcy fraud through a new page on the website of the U.S. Trustee Program. A component of the Department of Justice, the U.S. Trustee Program oversees the administration of bankruptcy cases and private trustees.
Bankruptcy fraud takes four general shapes:
When a debtor conceals assets to avoid forfeiting them.
When individuals file false or incomplete forms.
When an individual files numerous times, either by using real information in several states or by using false information.
When a court-appointed trustee is bribed.
In addition, bankruptcy fraud often involves other serious crimes such as mortgage fraud, identity theft, money laundering, and public corruption.
"Bankruptcy fraud is often the tip of the criminal iceberg, and that makes these prosecutions so important," said Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty.
Bankruptcy relief has become more widely accepted in the past decade, as the stigma attached with filing for the protection has diminished. The increase in filings, however, has led to more cases of suspected fraud.
The FBI has initiated a three-prong strategy to reduce the number of fraudulent filings.
Targeting individuals and business that conceal assets;
Targeting individuals who make fraudulent multiple interstate bankruptcy filings; and
Targeting bankruptcy fraud where it is associated with another criminal enterprise.