Category Archives: Celebrity Bankruptcy

The Latest About American Chopper’s Paul Teutul, Sr. Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Case

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I wrote a previous article about American Chopper and Orange County Chopper’s Paul Teutul Sr.’s chapter 13 bankruptcy filing. There are various updates below as things have played out. You may have read that Paul Teutul, Jr. filed bankruptcy and I can confirm that it is technically true. Unfortunately the mass media does almost no research anymore and just spits out half-truths as fact. I have reviewed the bankruptcy documents filed and can tell you firsthand the filing is by who we all know as Paul Teutul, Sr., aka “Senior” but senior is actually legally a junior. The voluntary petition for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code does not contain a scribers error and says Jr. because Paul Teutul, Sr. is actually a Jr. This is Bankruptcy Case No. 18-35310 filed in the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. This case as it has progressed turned into a sale case and creditors will receive 100% of their allowed claims. This means Mr. Paul Teutul Sr. is paying all his debts according to bankruptcy code and applicable non-bankruptcy law through the sale of his real property.

July 8, 2018 Update

Mr. Paul Teutul Sr.’s bankruptcy case is progressing for the most part normally at this point and the issues that remain involve the following:

1. Sale of Mr. Paul Teutul Sr.’s real property to fund the chapter 13 plan;
2. Objection to JTM Motorsport, Inc.’s alleged secured claim; and
3. The unknown value of filed Claim No. 9 given the claim is subject to ongoing litigation; more to come on this given the litigation is ongoing…… see below.

JTM Motor Sports, Inc.

As discussed and detailed below JTM Motor Sports, Inc. filed a motion for relief from stay and filed a claim for payment in Mr. Paul Teutul Sr.’s case alleging a secured claim and the claim was secured by Mr. Paul Teutul Sr.’s 2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. Mr. Paul Teutul Sr. opposed the motion for relief from stay and objected to the claim of JTM. The hearing on the objection to JTM’s alleged secured claim is July 30, 2018.

In bankruptcy cases with assets for creditors to share, whether a Chapter 7, Chapter 13 or Chapter 11/12, creditors are required to file proof of claims with evidence detailing how much they are owed and why they are entitled to receive payment or a distribution of the bankruptcy filers assets. That is what JTM Motor Sports, Inc. did. They filed a claim alleging an estimated secured claim totaling $51,000, Claim No. 8, filed on May 7, 2018. The problems is there is no documentation attached to the claim evidencing the amount owed or basis for perfection of the alleged secured claim. See Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 3001 and specifically 3001(d) if you really want to do some reading. A secured claim filed with absolutely no documentation for the basis of the secured claim is troubling. This is exactly why Mr. Paul Teutul Sr. is objecting to JTM’s alleged secured claim and requesting the Court expunge the claim entirely. Mr. Paul Teutul Sr. is also alleging he owes no money to JTM at all. See below for more details in a prior update about why JTM is alleging it has a secured claim in this case and why Mr. Paul Teutul, Sr. argues he owes them no money at all.

A larger overreaching issue and even more troubling aspect of what is going on here is what FRBP 3001(f) provides: Evidentiary Effect. A proof of claim executed and filed in accordance with these rules shall constitute prima facie evidence of the validity and amount of the claim. Why should any bankruptcy filer and their counsel have to spend valuable time and money objecting to a claim that clearly has failed to meet the rules? If a filed proof of claim alleging a secured claim has no documentation attached, a barebones claim, how could the claim be given evidentiary effect and be prima facie evidence of validity of a claim? The barebones claim is of no evidentiary effect period……..

Filed Claims for Payment

So far the following claims filed in Mr. Paul Teutul Sr.’s Chapter 13 Bankruptcy:

Claim No. 1: Ally Bank; $15,283.50 secured by a 2011 Dodge Ram Pickup
Claim No. 2: Nationstar Mortgage LLC dba Mr. Cooper; $56,859.62 secured by real property
Claim No. 3: American Express c/o Becket and Lee LLP; $39,716.95 general unsecured claim
Claim No. 4: American Express c/o Becket and Lee LLP; $10,285.65 general unsecured claim
Claim No. 5: Midland Funding, LLC; $9,390.67 general unsecured claim
Claim No. 6: County of Orange c/o McCabe & Mark, LLP; $55,408.31 secured by real property
Claim No. 7: M&T Bank c/o Schiller Knapp Lefkowitz Hertzel LLP; $911,097.23 secured by real property
Claim No. 8: JTM Motorsports, Inc.; $51,000 secured claim allegedly secured by 2009 Corvette
Claim No. 9: Thomas Derbyshire c/o Bayard, P.A. Peter Ladig; NO AMOUNT LISTED GIVEN THIS CLAIM IS SUBJECT TO ONGOING LITIGATION ….. MORE TO COME REGARDING WHAT TAKES PLACE REGARDING THIS CLAIM
Claim No. 10: Cortland County; $8,363.59 secured by real property
Claim No. 11: New York Dept. of Taxation and Finance; $25,832.99 with $20,780.78 as priority claim and the remainder of $5,052.21 a general unsecured claim

June 13, 2018 Update

Things have generally died down in Mr. Paul Teutul, Sr.’s chapter 13 bankruptcy case. Mr. Teutul will sell his house, pay off all his debts and walk away with hopefully a boat load of money. Hopefully you are reading this and will know Mr. Paul Teutul, Jr. aka Paul Teutul, Sr. paid his debts in full.

The Current Drama

What is still going on is a fight picked by JTM Motor Sports, Inc. and Paul Teutul’s 2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 in the possession of JTM Motor Sports, Inc. JTM is requesting the Bankruptcy Court give JTM the right to sell the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 to satisfy JTM’s alleged garageman’s lien. Allegedly the deal was JTM would beef up the Corvette so Mr. Teutul Jr. could race it in an episode of “Street Outlaws” against “Farm Truck” and JTM would have their banners prominently displayed to get media attention. If you are not familiar with “Street Outlaws” Oklahoma City “Farm Truck” is a Chevrolet truck that has a camper shell and serious horsepower and set up to race, a sleeper truck or car. Both “Street Outlaws” and “American Chopper” are produced by Pilgrim Studios and are on the Discovery Channel. According to Paul Teutul the relationship with an associate of JTM, a Mr. Franco, that was helping to put the appearance together on “Street Outlaws” soured. To date Mr. Paul Teutul, Jr. has not appeared on “Street Outlaws” and raced “Farm Truck.” So now JTM is alleging they have a garageman’s lien in the vehicle for the parts and labor expended on the Corvette. They also asked for Mr. Teutul’s case to be dismissed which is ridiculous. From reading the declaration of Paul Teutul, Jr. and the attached emails it would seem JTM is going to have a tough time proving a garageman’s lien.

As of May 29, 2018

There have been many significant developments in Paul Teutul’s Sr. chapter 13 bankruptcy filing. There are a couple truly significant events that happened in May 2018. I was hoping American Chopper’s Paul Teutul, Sr. would save his home from foreclosure and work things out with M &T Bank, but his Third Amended Chapter 13 Plan no longer seeks loss mitigation to try and save his home. The Third Amended Chapter 13 Plan reduced the monthly plan payment to $750 a month for 60 months. That is a total pot of $45,000. The first chapter 13 plan filed proposed a pot of $146,928.60 to be paid at $2,448.81 for 60 months. This is a significant reduction.

Paul Teutul Sr.’s Third Amended Chapter 13 plan no longer requests loss mitigation regarding his home, but instead provides sell language as follows: “Debtor intends to sell Real Property having an address of 95 Judson Road, Montgomery, New York sold pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 363(b). The Real Property is subject to a secured claim held by M&T Bank. Debtor has entered into an Exclusive Right to Sell Agreement with Ellis Sotheby’s International Realty to market the sale of Real Property. Once a Contract of Sale is entered into, the Debtor will amend this Plan accordingly. The net proceeds of the sale will be used to fund this Chapter 13 Plan and to pay all creditors in full. Debtor shall attach an affidavit containing all facts necessary for Court to approve the sale and should be prepared to address the requirements of 11 U.S.C. § 363 at the confirmation hearing. The Debtor shall submit an order approving sale upon confirmation of the Plan or the Court’s separate determination of the request, whichever is earlier.” This means the house we all saw on American Chopper is going to be sold and hopefully Paul Teutul, Sr. will walk away with some money from the sale after paying back property tax and M & T Bank missed mortgage payments. The Third Amended Chapter 13 Plan also provides all creditors will be paid in full. So those of you out there that are haters Paul Teutul Sr. is paying his creditors in full via the sale of his real property. This is not uncommon and what the Bankruptcy Code requires under Orange County Chopper Paul Teutul Sr.’s circumstances. It happens quite a bit actually, but all people seem to focus on is the person filed bankruptcy and do not take the time or educate themselves about what actually took place in the bankruptcy. I have no doubt Paul Teutul Sr. will continue to make good money and live a good life. He will also be 100% debt free upon completion of his Chapter 13 Plan.

Some History

If you do not know the huge building built as OCC’s headquarters was lost years ago and OCC leases a portion for the chopper business and restaurant OCC operates at the building. So you should have known then that things were not great. Unfortunately things did not improve for Paul Teutul, Sr. Not a whole lot has happened in the Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing. The original meeting of creditors was scheduled for March 28, 2018, was continued to April 11, 2018, at 12:30 p.m. Even in Chapter 13 cases few creditors show up to ask the debtor, Paul Teutul, Sr., questions. The meeting of creditors is a very limited forum and there is not a lot of time for creditors to ask questions after the trustee and/or their attorney asks their questions. If a creditor would like more time and request documents they may file an application for an order pursuant to FRBP 2004. I am sure there will be a couple creditors that show up because Paul Teutul, Sr. is the debtor and no other reason than that. I am a bankruptcy attorney and worked for a Chapter 13 Trustee. I would be the one questioning Paul Teutul, Sr. at this meeting of creditors. That was part of the job. Generally even under Paul Teutul, Sr.’s circumstances the meeting of creditors should not be too eventful.

Hearing Regarding Objection To Request For Loss Mitigation

A hearing that truly could be eventful and is the keystone for the entire Chapter 13 case is the hearing regarding Paul Teutul Sr.’s request for loss mitigation regarding his house pursuant to the terms of the Amended Chapter 13 Plan Paul Teutul, Sr. Please note for later Paul Teutul Sr.’s Chapter 13 petition starting this bankruptcy case was filed on February, 27, 2018. Paul Teutul, Sr. has checked the box for loss mitigation regarding his primary residence. Once creditors are served with the Chapter 13 Plan that may object to how the plan is treating them as a creditor.

On March 15, 2018, bankruptcy attorney Lisa Milas, on behalf of M&T Bank, the servicer of the loan and the owner Manufactures & Traders Trust Company, filed an objection to Paul Teutul’s Sr.’s request for loss mitigation. Loss mitigation is a fancy way of saying modification of the terms of the loan that can no longer be followed or have not been followed, deed in lieu of foreclosure with agreed upon terms or consensual sale. Paul Teutul, Sr. originally was loaned $1,500,000 from M&T Mortgage Corporation, another name used for the secured lender that I assume is Manufactures & Traders Trust Company since M&T Bank is the servicer, on September 27, 2005, secured by Paul Teutul Sr.’s primary residence. The mortgage was first modified October 10, 2013, and modified again on January 14, 2016. M&T Bank is objecting to Paul Teutul, Sr.’s request for loss mitigation given M&T Bank recently reviewed the loan and denied Paul Teutul, Sr.’s request for modification. There is a denial letter attached to the objection to Paul Teutul, Sr.’s request for loss mitigation as an exhibit and the rejection letter is dated December 18, 2017. This bankruptcy case was filed on February 27, 2018. M&T Bank’s objection says the loan was reviewed in January though. M&T Bank denied Paul Teutul, Sr.’s request for loss mitigation or modification given the monthly loan payment would increase significantly and the modification would not result in the requisite surplus income even if the interest rate was reduced and the term extended.

So yes, that is how most modifications work. The total owed with missed mortgage payments added in is spread out over an extended term with a reduced interest rate to make the monthly loan payment affordable again. Apparently after two prior modifications M&T Bank does not believe Paul Teutul, Sr. will be able to make the modified payment given his current income and expenses. M&T Bank is owed $905,448.00 and the property securing the debt is allegedly worth $1,800,000.00. So after applying the NYCPLR Section 5206 exemption of $137,950.00, Paul Teutul, Sr. has $756,602.00 without deduction the cost of sale or potential capital gains tax.

So unfortunately the Bankruptcy Court denied loss mitigation and the Third Amended Chapter 13 Plan seeks to sell Mr. Teutul Sr.’s real property to pay off all creditors in full.

Income and Debts

I am going to hold off on sharing any sharp bankruptcy attorney opinions other that what is provided in the filed schedules of Paul Teutul, Sr. Income of about $13,000 from Orange County Choppers, $5,500 from family support and about $2,600 from Social Security without deduction taxes and various other deductions before net income. One of the deductions that jumped out at me was the $1,034.45 a month for paying back retirement account loans. I am working on another article that discusses why to never take a loan from a retirement account. I hate to see retirement account loans and then a bankruptcy petition is filed anyway. Retirement account loans are the gateway drug to bankruptcy. Another monthly expense that jumped out at me was the monthly property tax of $4,166.00 and monthly insurance of $566.00. I am not familiar with property tax in New York but this seems extremely high. Paul Teutul, Sr. lists the value of the property as $1,800,000.00. One of the largest debts listed is for property taxes of $51,230.98. The Amended Chapter 13 Plan also provides that about $80,000.00 in mortgage payments were not paid prior to Paul Teutul, Sr. filing for bankruptcy. As it stands Pau Teutul, Sr. is seeking loss mitigation regarding the mortgage with M&T Bank and paying into the Chapter 13 Plan from monthly income $2,448.00 for 60 months for a total of $146,880.00 total pot. [Update: Since this was originally written Mr. Teutul, Sr. has significantly amended his schedules of assets to include value and many more assets.]

50 Cent’s Bankruptcy By The Numbers As Of January 2016

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There has been a lot of mass media attention regarding 50 Cent’s personal Chapter 11 bankruptcy case. First though, a company that 50 Cent owns, SMS Promotions, LLC, also filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11. The mass media is for some reason incapable of understanding that when a corporation or LLC files for bankruptcy protection the individual owners have not filed for bankruptcy. Corporations and limited liability companies are separate legal entities from the owners. That is the whole point in forming the corporation or limited liability company. Unlike Donald Trump, 50 Cent in fact has filed a personal bankruptcy case under Chapter 11, Bankruptcy Case No. 15-21233, in the District of Connecticut, Hartford Division. Donald Trump has NEVER filed for personal bankruptcy protection. Second, as of January 29, 2016, the bank account set up for the bankruptcy case, the debtor-in-possession account, has $7,449,764.30 in cash. So if 50 Cent chooses to pose for a picture with around $50,000 in cash spelling the word broke that would be analogous to me or one of my clients posing for a picture of one dollar bills spelling the work broke. I will say it is a bad look, period.

The following is an analysis of 50 Cent’s disclosed income, expenses, assets and debts based upon court documents filed by 50 Cent’s bankruptcy lawyers and creditors in the bankruptcy case.

50 Cent’s INCOME and EXPENSES

In a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization a debtor must commit their monthly disposable income for the benefit of those who are owed money for a term of a minimum of five years. 50 Cent’s current monthly income and future monthly income and expenses are very important then. In Chapter 11 cases the bankruptcy filer is required to file with the bankruptcy court monthly operating reports. The reports provide the income, expenses and assets of the debtor while the bankruptcy case is progressing. These reports help creditors and the United States Trustee determine if reorganization is possible and whether the bankruptcy filer is takings steps to “right the ship” by decreasing or eliminating unnecessary expenses.

50 Cent’s January 2016 operating report provides monthly income from wages of ($1,538.68), royalties ($26,531.06) and other miscellaneous income called other receipts of ($77,000) for a total monthly income of $105,069.74. 50 Cent’s expenses for the month of January 2016 exceeded his income by about $13,000. So arguably 50 Cent does not have any monthly disposable income to pay each month for the benefit of creditors in a Chapter 11 plan of reorganization. That is if Jan. 2016 is representative of 50 Cent’s future income and expenses. 50 Cent’s creditors believe 50 Cent’s income is more and his expenses should be reduced.

On the expense side there are some high numbers as compared to the rest of us who are not on TV or in the movies. 50 Cent lists the following expenses for the month of January 2016:

Mortgage Payments $17,354.44
Real Estate Taxes $8,419.11
Utilities $12,879.73
Insurance $33,215.49
Auto Expense $3,507.59
Lease Payments $5,744.75
Repairs and Maintenance $6,593.70
ALIMONY/CHILD SUPPORT $12,097.00
Fitness Expense $3,000.00
Security $11,369.00

TOTAL EXPENSES: $118,255.81
TOTAL INCOME: $105,069.74
($13,186.07)

For the month of January 2016 if 50 Cent had not transferred $77,000 in cash from his bank accounts he would not have been able to pay his monthly expenses with his monthly income. So arguably there are some issues with 50 Cent’s ability to reorganize his debts based upon his monthly income. 50 Cent’s creditors argue that 50 Cent is underreporting his income given he has not disclosed income from recent appearances and performances since filing for bankruptcy protection. We shall see.

50 Cent’s ASSETS

In a sophisticated Chapter 11 reorganization like 50 Cent’s there are assets that are extremely difficult to value. How much is a business entity worth? What someone will pay you for it? Or is the book value the proper valuation? 50 Cent owns or allegedly has an interest in over 32 corporations or limited liability companies defined as “Related Entities” by creditors. There are also about 10 businesses defined as “Additional Entities” by creditors. The values of these business interests are extremely difficult to evaluate and 50 Cent’s creditors argue that the values of these entities are more than what was provided/disclosed in 50 Cent’s bankruptcy petition and schedules. As of Jan. 29, 2016, 50 Cent provides his total assets are worth $16,411,498.64.

50 Cent owns three pieces of real property: (1) primary residence located at 30 Poplar Hills Drive Farmington, CT 06032 with an estimated value of $8.25 million and mortgage of about $1 million owed to Suntrust Bank; (2) investment property located at 8 Gale Drive Valley Stream, NY 11581 with an estimate value of $572,000 and no debt; and (3) an investment property located at 3286 Northside Pkwy, Unit 302 Atlanta, GA 30327 with an estimated value of $464,000 and no debt. 50 Cent’s real property is worth about $8,286,000.

50 Cent’s vehicles have a scheduled total value of $500,618.00 and are as follows:

1966 Chevrolet Coupe
2015 Chevrolet Suburban
2010 Rolls Royce Phantom Drophea
2005 Chevrolet Suburban
2008 Dodge Sprinter
2003 Chevrolet Suburban
2012 Suzuki Kizashi Sport

One of the personal assets creditors of 50 Cent point out is missing from the bankruptcy petition and schedules is the trademark “50 Cent” which 50 Cent owns. Creditors argue that the trademark is very valuable and should be listed as a personal asset of 50 Cent.

50 Cent’s DEBTS

As of January 29, 2016, 50 Cent provides his debts total $32,390,319.34. The debt is comprised of $987,070.53 in secured debts, $770,412.00 in unsecured priority debts and $30,390,319.34 in general unsecured debts. The largest debt is a general unsecured debt owed to Sleek Audio, LLC, totaling $18,131,668.65 resulting from a judgment in a lawsuit over the design and sales of headphones. The other largest general unsecured debt is owed to Lastonia Leviston totaling $7,000,000 resulting from a judgment in a lawsuit about the alleged release of narrated sext tape by 50 Cent.

The unsecured priority debts are for domestic support totaling about $856,000 and taxes owed to the Internal Revenue Service totaling $175,067.91 and the State of New York totaling $1,379,687.

Status of the Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Reorganization

Right now both 50 Cent and three creditors, Sleek Audio LLC, Lastonia Leviston and Suntrust Bank, have proposed a Chapter 11 Plan of Reorganization. Of course the creditors plan provides for repayment of all of 50 Cents debts during the plan based upon his current income, assets and future earning potential. I have not yet reviewed the plan filed by 50 Cent and his bankruptcy attorneys.

Why Did 50 Cent File Bankruptcy When He Is Rich and Famous Still?

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For the record many successful and rich people make the decision to file for bankruptcy protection under various chapters of the Bankruptcy Code. Curtis James Jackson, III, aka 50 Cent, is no different. Like many things in our society ignorance of the law rules the day. Hopefully this article and future articles about 50 Cent’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy case will help you understand bankruptcy law and why 50 Cent filed. That said, on July 13, 2015, 50 Cent filed a personal bankruptcy petition for protection under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code, Bankruptcy Case No. 15-21233, in the District of Connecticut, Hartford Division, to reorganize his debts.

Why Did 50 Cent File Bankruptcy?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines being insolvent as: (1) unable to pay debts as they fall due in the usual course of business; (2) having liabilities in excess of a reasonable market value of assets held. 50 Cent became unable to pay his debts as they came due in the usual course of business resulting from judgments entered against him and the cost of litigating with Sleek Audio and Lastonia Leviston lawsuits.

Sleek Audio, LLC Litigation

According to court documents back in 2011n 50 Cent entered into business with Sleek Audio, LLC to develop headphones and market the headphones under 50 Cent’s professional name. Sleek entered into a licensing brand agreement with G-Unit Brands, 50 Cent’s brand licensing company and allowed Sleek to use 50 Cent’s trademarks in the marketing of the headphones. For whatever reason Sleek did not follow through on making the headphone commercially viable by the February 15, 2011, deadline. As a result G-Unit Brands terminated the licensing agreement with Sleek and 50 Cent then created SMS Audio to develop his headphones on his own instead. Like most divorces Sleek did not go away quietly. Sometime in August 2011 Sleek filed an arbitration case against 50 Cent alleging he stole their designs for his new headphones and owed Sleek some money. Long story short Sleek won. Eventually a judgment was entered in Sleek’s favor totaling $17,247,426.11 plus post-judgment interest rate of 4.75%. 50 Cent’s list of 20 largest unsecured creditors provides the judgment has grown to $18,428,257.00 as of July 13, 2015.

Lastonia Leviston Sex Tape Litigation

Another reason for the personal Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing is a sex tape 50 Cent allegedly released of Lastonia Leviston without her consent. 50 Cent was in a rap war with William Leonard Roberts, aka Rick Ross. Ms. Leviston used to date Rick Ross and they have a child together. In 2008 Ms. Leviston was in a relationship with Maurice Murray. Leviston and Murray made a sex tape and Murray retained possession of the sex tape. At some point Murray gave the sex tape to 50 Cent and allegedly told 50 Cent he could do whatever he wanted with the sex tape. 50 Cent allegedly created a copy of the sex tape and then narrated the sex tape saying negative things about Ms. Leviston and mocking Rick Ross. 50 Cent alleged the edited version of the sex tape was leaked by someone other than himself and that he never released the edited sex tape on any of his websites. Ms. Leviston sued 50 Cent in state court and eventually she won a judgment for about $5 million (Leviston v Jackson, Index No. 102449-2010, pending before New York State Supreme Court, New York County).

July 13, 2015 Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Filing and Leviston Lawsuit

The jury in the Leviston lawsuit was then tasked with determining how much the punitive damages to punish 50 Cent for the alleged release of the edited sex tape should be. Before the punishment faze began 50 Cent filed for personal bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. As soon as a bankruptcy petition is filed the automatic stay takes effect stopping any and all collection activity including lawsuits. So the day the punishment part of the state court lawsuit was supposed to start 50 Cent’s attorneys walked in with the notice of the bankruptcy filing and that ended the punishment faze for the time being. But, a creditor or party-in-interest, like Ms. Leviston, can request the bankruptcy court to allow a state court lawsuit to continue despite the filing of a bankruptcy case. This is what happened in 50 Cent’s bankruptcy case. Ms. Leviston’s Bankruptcy Attorneys filed what is called a motion for relief from the automatic stay on July 13, 2015, the exact same day 50 Cent filed for bankruptcy protection. Ms. Leviston asked the bankruptcy court to allow the state court punishment faze to continue despite the filing of the bankruptcy case. Ms. Leviston’s attorneys also requested and received an expedited hearing date to speed up the process.

Of course 50 Cent’s Bankruptcy Lawyers filed an opposition to the motion for relief from stay advocating why the stay should not be lifted. In my opinion the two most compelling reasons to not lift the automatic stay is that punitive or punishment damages are normally calculated based upon the wealth of the allegedly guilty party and that punitive damages claims are/can be subordinated or disallowed in bankruptcy pursuant to Section 510(c). When a person files for bankruptcy protection what the bankruptcy filer’s assets are worth is often a litigated issue because it matters a lot in the outcome of what creditors should receive through the Chapter 11 plan of reorganization. So how can a jury in the state court case determine the amount of punitive damages to award against 50 Cent if a determination of the value of his assets has not been made in the now pending bankruptcy case? Arguably punitive damages cannot be determined so why proceed? The other compelling argument in my opinion is how punitive damages are treated in bankruptcy. Generally punitive damages are disallowed or subordinated to other claims so that the other people who are owed money get paid more. The goal of bankruptcy is distribute the assets of the debtor to creditors fairly according to the Bankruptcy Code. The goal is not to punish the debtor like punitive damages seek to do. Therefore punitive damages are generally disallowed or paid after other types of claims are paid first. I will have more to day about this issue in future articles.

July 17, 2015, a hearing was held before the Honorable Ann M. Nevins regarding the motion for relief from stay and the motion was granted. As a result the punitive damages part of the Leviston lawsuit could continue. On July 20, 2015, the jury in the New York State Court lawsuit regarding the alleged release of the sex tape awarded an additional $2 million in punitive damages to Ms. Leviston for a total judgment against 50 Cent of $7 million. I am sure 50 Cent was not banking on the filing of his bankruptcy case to stop the punishment part of the lawsuit by Ms. Leviston. Nevertheless, there are still benefits to seeking bankruptcy protection and reorganizing his debts in Chapter 11.

So, 50 Cent found himself with a $17 million judgment against him owed to Sleek and then another judgment of $5 million owed to Ms. Leviston prior to filing for bankruptcy protection. Even if someone has significant assets and significant income can they write a $22 million check to satisfy their debts? That is why 50 Cent filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. What will result in 50 Cent’s Chapter 11 reorganization case is still to be determined. Additional articles will be posted to discuss 50 Cent’s current financial circumstances and current status of the case in the future.

Detailed Look and Examination of Ex-NFL Football Player Jamal Lewis’ 2012 Bankruptcy Filing – Part III

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This is Part III in a series of blog articles analyzing and discussing the bankruptcy filing of former NFL player Jamal Lewis. Many celebrity bankruptcy cases are routine and not very interesting. Unfortunately for Jamal Lewis as bankruptcy cases go his is extremely interesting.

In Part II F.Xavier Baldera and Regions Bank asked the bankruptcy court for relief from stay to initiated the foreclosure sale of the 2007 Fountain Lightning 47’. The court of course granted their request since Mr. Lewis did not make payment to them to quite some time. But wait, there is far more to the F.Xavier Balderas and Regions Bank story. On July 6, 2012, prior to the case being converted to a case under Chapter 7, F.Xavier Balderas and Regions Bank filed a joint motion to extend the deadline to file a complaint to determine the dischargeability of the debt owed to them by Mr. Lewis. This means these creditors believe they have grounds to sue Mr. Lewis and obtain a judgment ruling that any debt owed to them should not be discharged in the bankruptcy case of Mr. Lewis. F.Xavier Baldera and Regions Bank want more time to gather evidence and determine if they should sue Mr. Lewis or not. This is basically as bad as it gets when filing for bankruptcy protection. It is one thing for a creditor to be given relief from the automatic stay. It is a whole other story when a creditor is trying to make a debt not ever go away. The whole point in filing for bankruptcy is to make debts go away forever. On July 6, 2012, the court granted their motion for more time. The deadline for F.Xavier Baldera and Regions Bank to file an adversary proceeding against Mr. Lewis was extended to September 14, 2012. There is more to come about F.Xavier Balderas’ and Regions Bank’s issues with Mr. Lewis. For now we need to discuss the other creditors and their interests in the bankruptcy estate of Mr. Lewis.

4. Navistar Financial Corporation

On July 6, 2012, Navistar Financial Corporation filed its motion to extend the deadline to file an adversary complaint pursuant to 11 U.S.C. §523 to object to the discharge of the debt owed to Navistar Financial Corporation. Navistar is an unsecured creditor in Mr. Lewis’ case listed in Schedule F as having a claim regarding possible personal guarantee on a business debt. No dollar amount is listed as owed. There is more to come regarding this creditor and whether or not they sue Mr. Lewis.

5. Hit-Em Hard Corporation

On July 11, 2012, Hit-Em Hard Corporation filed a stipulation for extension of the deadline to file an adversary complaint against Mr. Lewis pursuant to 11 U.S.C. §523 to object to the discharge of the debt owed to them. Hit-Em Hard Corporation is an unsecured creditor in Mr. Lewis’ case listed in Schedule F as having a claim regarding possible personal guarantee on a business debt. No dollar amount is listed as owed. There is more to come regarding this creditor and whether or not they sue Mr. Lewis.

6. Alpha Jordyn, LLC

On July 11, 2012, Alpha Jordyn, LLC, filed a stipulation for extension of the deadline to file an adversary complaint against Mr. Lewis pursuant to 11 U.S.C. §523 to object to the discharge of the debt owed to them. A stipulation is an agreement between two parties. Alpha Jordyn, LLC contacted Mr. Lewis’ bankruptcy lawyers and they agreed to an extension of the deadline. Alpha Jordyn, LLC, is also an unsecured creditor in Mr. Lewis’ case listed in Schedule F as having a claim regarding possible personal guarantee on a business debt. No dollar amount is listed as owed. There is more to come regarding this creditor and whether or not they sue Mr. Lewis.
So now F.Xavier Baldera and Regions Bank, Navistar Financial Corporation, Hit-Em Hard Corporation and Alpha Jordy, LLC, have until September 14, 2012, to sue Mr. Lewis and prove the debts owed to them should not be discharged in his bankruptcy case.

7. Transportation Alliance Bank

On August 8, 2012, John A. Thompson on behalf of Transportation Alliance Bank filed a motion for relief from stay. Transportation Alliance Bank is an industrial loan corporation with its principal place of business located in Utah. Transportation Alliance Bank alleges that Mr. Lewis owns a one-half undivided interest in real property located at Section 21, Township 12 – North, Range 21-West, Refugee Lands in Franklin County, Columbus, Ohio and more commonly known as Fort Rapids Water Park. Fort Rapids Water Park is an indoor waterpark with hotel accommodations and conference rooms. Transportation Alliance Bank alleges that Mr. Lewis took title to the property, as a joint tenant with a third party named Brownlee Reagan by warranty deed dated July 20, 2010. For some reason Mr. Lewis’ schedules of assets does not list Fort Rapids Water Park as an asset in Schedule A, but Schedule D does list Transportation Alliance Bank as having a second secured priority interest with the claim secured by Fort Rapids Indoor Waterpark Resort. Transportation Alliance Bank perfected its security interest by recording deed of trust against the waterpark on October 29, 2010. Keep in mind that Mr. Lewis filed for bankruptcy protection a mere 17 months later. The terms of the loan to Mr. Lewis by Transportation Alliance Bank were interest only payments to be made for 47 months with a balloon payment at the end of the 47 month term. As of April 10, 2012, Transportation Allican Ban is owed $2,338,803.58 by Mr. Lewis.

According to Transportation Alliance Bank Mr. Lewis only made the interest only payments until December 22, 2010, a couple months after receiving the loan. It also appears that on or around the same exact time Mr. Lewis was obtaining a loan from Transportation Alliance Bank he was also obtaining a loan for $5.1 million from Tennessee State Bank and using the same waterpark property as collateral to secure this loan too. It appears that the Tennessee State Bank won the race to record their security interest with assignment of rents before Transportation Alliance Bank recorded their deed of trust. Arguably then as, Mr. Lewis’ schedules of debts indicate, Transportation Alliance Bank has a second priority interest and Tennessee State Bank has the first position. In Transportation Alliance Bank’s motion for relief from stay they allege that the combined amount of the loans secured by the waterpark exceed the value of waterpark. They argue that Mr. Lewis is failing to adequately protect them due to Mr. Lewis no longer making interest only payments to them. In addition to receiving no payments, their loan being underwater or under secured, they argue the waterpark property is not necessary for Mr. Lewis to reorganize her debts in bankruptcy. When this motion for first filed Mr. Lewis was still in a Chapter 11 case. The case had not yet been converted to Chapter 7. While Transportation Alliance Bank’s motion was awaiting hearing Mr. Lewis converted his case to Chapter 7. Given the above facts Transportation Alliance Bank has grounds to obtain relief from the automatic stay and foreclosure on the waterpark pursuant to Ohio state law. There is more to come regarding Transportation Alliance Bank’s claim against Mr. Lewis totaling approximately $2.4 million.

To recap, this case started out as a Chapter 11 reorganization of debts case but was quickly converted to a case under Chapter 7. Mercedes Benz Financial Services USA, LLC agreed to allow Mr. Lewis to keep the 2010 Mercedes-Benz CL63 AMG with adequate protection payments from Mr. Lewis of $2,320.00 per month. Porsche Financial Services, Inc. asked permission from the court and received relief from the automatic stay to repossess the leased 2010 Porsche Panamera. F.Xavier Baldera and Regions Bank, Navistar Financial Corporation, Hit-Em Hard Corporation and Alpha Jordy, LLC, have until September 14, 2012, to sue Mr. Lewis and prove the debts owed to them should not be discharged in his bankruptcy case. Now Transportation Alliance Bank is asking the court for permission to foreclose on Mr. Lewis interest in a waterpark located in Ohio.

This concludes Part III. There are still six parties to discuss and find out what their interests are in Mr. Lewis’ bankruptcy case.

Detailed Look and Examination of Ex-NFL Football Player Jamal Lewis’ 2012 Bankruptcy Filing – Part II

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If you did not know, Mr. Lewis’ bankruptcy case is still an ongoing case. Part I goes through the first part of the bankruptcy case, describing the players and some procedure and addresses arguably why Mr. Lewis’ case was converted to a case under Chapter 7 so soon after originally filing a Chapter 11 reorganization case. Part II begins with describing the various interests of three lesser creditors and what they did to enforce their rights in Mr. Lewis’ bankruptcy case. Keep in mind that as soon as a person or company files for bankruptcy protection the order of relief becomes effective stopping any and all collection activity, lawsuits, wage garnishments, repossessions and foreclosures for example. This is the backbone of every bankruptcy case and the grant of power to the bankruptcy court and judge. The bankruptcy court is the single point of focus for relief if you are owed money or have a claim for money against the bankruptcy filer.

If the case is a reorganization case no more payments are made to vendors, mortgages or vehicle loans without court permission. It is assumed or most likely that secured creditor payments will be made in a plan of reorganization. Reorganizing or changing the payment terms of a mortgage or vehicle loan in Chapter 11 or Chapter 13 is the name of the game and why a person or company can still stay afloat. Bankruptcy is a way to force more favorable repayment terms on secured creditors and get rid of unsecured debts all at the same time.

High Creditor Involvement Means Nothing But Trouble For a Bankruptcy Filer

Mr. Lewis’ bankruptcy case has had quite a few creditors actively involved from the very beginning of the case. That means nothing but trouble for a debtor seeking to reorganize or discharge debts. There are over eleven creditors to be discussed. Here are the first three.

1. Mercedes Benz Financial Services USA, LLC

On May 1, 2012, Mercedes-Benz Financial Services USA, LLC filed a motion for adequate protection. At some point Mr. Lewis financed the purchase of a 2010 Mercedes-Benz CL63 AMG with a balance owed at the time the bankruptcy case was filed of $110,934.41. The monthly payment on the loan is $2,026.35. Mercedes-Benz filed this motion to make sure they get monthly payments from Mr. Lewis while the bankruptcy case progresses. All secured creditors are entitled to be adequately protected against the depreciation of their collateral. Vehicles decrease in value rapidly as time goes on and can be easily hid or moved to thwart repossession. At the time this motion was originally filed Mr. Lewis was still in a Chapter 11 reorganization case. It could have been months before Mercedes-Benz received payment through a confirmed/approved plan of reorganization if they just sat back and waited to see what happened. In the meantime the collateral securing their loan is decreasing in value. So Mercedes-Benz is enforcing its right to be adequately protected against depreciation of the 2010 CL63 AMG by receiving the monthly payment of $2,026.35 from Mr. Lewis. On June 12, 2012, a consent order was signed by the court. Mr. Lewis agreed to pay $2,320.00 to Mercedes-Benz each month. This means that Mr. Lewis intended to keep the 2010 Mercedes-Benz CL63 AMG.

The consent order comes with a catch though. If Mr. Lewis fails to make the adequate protection payment totaling $2,320.00 each month, then Mercedes-Benz is immediately granted the right to repossess the vehicle without further order of the court. A secured creditor cannot repossess its collateral without permission from the bankruptcy court. By filing the motion for adequate protection Mercedes-Benz has killed two birds with one stone. They obtained an order from the court for adequate protection payments and they obtained relief from the automatic stay to repossess the 2010 Mercedes-Benz if Mr. Lewis fails to make the post-petition adequate protection payment totaling $2,320 per month. Mercedes-Benz is set now. They can sit back and collect their money each month until the loan is paid off or repossess the 2010 Benz if Mr. Lewis misses a payment.

2. Porsche Financial Services, Inc.

Unlike Mercedes-Benz, Porsche Financial Services, Inc. finds itself in a different position. Mr. Lewis leased a 2010 Porsche Panamera. Mr. Lewis is not offering Porsche adequate protection payments and Mr. Lewis also has not made a payment on the lease since February 2012. The total owed is $88,788.58 at the time the bankruptcy case was filed. Given these circumstances Porsche filed a motion for relief from stay on May 3, 2012, requesting permission from the court to repossess the 2010 Porsche Panamera immediately. Why bother trying to get adequate protection if the lease is already past due and it appears Mr. Lewis has not intent of continuing to make any more payments. On July 17, 2012, the bankruptcy court entered the order granting Porsche Financial Services, Inc. relief from the automatic stay. They may now repossess the 2010 Porsche Panamera and sell the Porsche at auction to pay off the lease balance.

3. F. Xavier Balderas and Regions Bank

Now this is where it starts to get interesting. F.Xavier Balderas and Regions Bank filed a joint motion for relief from the automatic stay on June 27, 2012. Keep in mind again that Mr. Lewis’ case is still a Chapter 11 reorganization case at this time. Basically F.Xavier and Regions Bank are saying we do not care that you are seeking to reorganize your debts. We believe we have grounds to get the court to allow us to foreclosure or repossess our collateral and continue to go after you despite the fact that you filed for bankruptcy protection.
On or around June 20, 2007 Mr. Lewis obtained a loan totaling $416,000 at 7.15% interest from Am SouthBank, now named Regions Bank. The note was secured by a 2007 Fountain Lighting 47’ recreational boat. This is basically a cigarette racing boat. They have v-shaped hulls, are long and have multiple very powerful (700 HP) engines. Mr. Lewis borrowed additional unsecured sums of money from AmSouth Bank/Regions Bank and then stopped making payments. In 2011 Regions Bank filed a lawsuit against Mr. Lewis in the state of Tennessee to recover the amounts due pursuant to the various unpaid notes by Mr. Lewis. Eventually a judgment was entered against Mr. Lewis totaling $676,299.63. Of this amount about $420,820.00 is secured by the 2007 Fountain Lightning 47.’ Mr. Lewis, on May 17, 2012, testified at the 341 meeting of the creditors that the value of the 2007 Fountain Lighting 47’ was only about $300,000. So, Mr. Lewis is not making any adequate protection payments to Regions Bank (if fact it was so bad they sued him in state court), there is no equity in the boat (the amount owed is far more than the fair market value of the boat) and this is a recreational craft in the purest way and is in no way necessary for anyone to reorganize their debts in a Chapter 11 case. After the filing of Region’s original motion for relief from stay this case was converted to Chapter 7 and a Chapter 7 trustee was appointed to administer the assets of the Mr. Lewis’ bankruptcy estate on August 8, 2012. Under these circumstances the boat is of no value to the bankruptcy estate and creditors given the amount of debt is far more than the value of the boat.

What many people fail to understand or realize is that many people or companies that file for bankruptcy usually keep their cars, houses and even toys like a large recreation boat when seeking bankruptcy protection. If the asset is of no value to the estate (more is owed on the asset then the asset is worth) and the bankruptcy filer can afford to make the secured debt payment each month they usually can keep the asset and continue to make the loan payments. Secured debts get first priority in many ways. In a recent 9th Circuit Court of Appeals case, In re Welsh (No. 12-60009, 9th Circuit, March 25, 2013, regarding secured debts in Chapter 13 reorganizations cases, the 9th Circuit held that Congress did not intend to limit the amount of secured debt a Chapter 13 bankruptcy filer has. So basically a single person can have two car payments, 2 ATV payments and a monthly plane loan payment with no money left over to pay unsecured credit cards and that is okay under the Bankruptcy Code and Section 707(b). Again, the system is geared for the benefit of secured creditors with collateral.

On September 17, 2012, the court signed the order granting Regions Bank full relief from the automatic stay and immediate permission to initiate the foreclosure sale of the 2007 Fountain Lightning 47’. This bank was fighting to be paid since 2011 by first initiating the state court lawsuit. They are owed more than $676,000 and will foreclose on collateral worth approximately $300,000. Regions Bank will be left with an unsecured claim of around $376,000 in Mr. Lewis’ bankruptcy case. What happens to their $676,000 general unsecured claim?

Please note that I have only discussed three creditors so far. Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and F.Xavier Regions Bank were fairly straight forward believe it or not. There are least ten creditors to discuss and things get worse, far worse.

Detailed Look and Examination of Ex-NFL Football Player Jamal Lewis’ 2012 Bankruptcy Filing – Part I

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On May 28, 2012, I first wrote an article about Jamal Lewis’ Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in the Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Bankruptcy Case Number 12-58938. Unfortunately since then Mr. Lewis’ case has taken a turn for the worse. Mr. Lewis filed the Chapter 11 reorganization case on April 3, 2012. On August 8, 2012, the case was unfortunately converted to Chapter 7, which means liquidation, not reorganization. In Chapter 11 reorganizations it is possible for a person or company with a fair amount of assets or income to reorganize their debts and come out in good shape and still be considered rich by a normal person’s standard. Chapter 7 means liquidation where only a limited amount of the bankruptcy filer’s assets can be protected and the rest are liquidated for the benefit of the people or companies that are owed money. I of course do not know every intimate detail, but it begs the question why did Jamal Lewis’ bankruptcy attorneys file a Chapter 11 reorganization case to begin with when the case was converted to Chapter 7 only four months after it was filed? It appears the reorganization never had a chance. The filing fee and process or reorganizing is extremely expensive in a Chapter 11 case. Especially a case like this one that has sharks circling it to shred it to pieces. As this article examines this case in detail you will discover how difficult it can be to seek a discharge of debts.

Various Parties And General Information About Filing A Bankruptcy Case

1. United States Trustees Office

First and foremost there is the United States Trustee’s Office or the UST, which is part of the Department of Justice. The UST is responsible for overseeing the administration of bankruptcy cases and the private trustees assigned to Chapter 7 and 13 cases pursuant to 11. U.S.C. §586. When a Chapter 11 reorganization case is filed it is assigned to an attorney within the UST’s office to oversee the reorganization. The UST does not take possession or have a right to possession of the assets of the bankruptcy estate though. This is a key difference regarding Chapter 9, 11 or 12 bankruptcy cases. The debtor, or bankruptcy filer, is a debtor-in-possession or DIP. This means the bankruptcy filer is in possession of the assets of the bankruptcy estate. The DIP must obtain court approval to spend assets of the bankruptcy estate to continue to operate a business or fund an individual’s ongoing living expenses. Some critics of this process ask why is the bankruptcy law allowing the assets of the bankruptcy estate to be left and continued to be managed by the entity or person who theoretically caused or contributed to the financial problems to begin with? Arguably the bankruptcy filer whether a person or a company is still has the most knowledge and in the best position to manage the day to day affairs and assets that are part of the bankruptcy estate. Also, the United States Trustee, Bankruptcy Court, Debtor’s attorney and creditors all monitor the use and preservation of property of the estate for the benefit of creditors. Creditors are much more likely to be active or participate in a Chapter 11 reorganization then a Chapter 13 reorganization.

2. Creditors

Creditors are defined by 11 U.S.C. §101(10) which provides that creditors means an entity that has a claim against the debtor that arose at the time of or before the order for relief concerning the debtor; entity that has a claim against the estate of the kind specified in section 348(d), 502(f), 502(h) or 502(i) of this title; or entity that has a community claim. Any further explanation and digging into the Bankruptcy Code sections listed here is beyond the scope of this article. Basically creditors are those who are owed money or have a claim for money at the time the bankruptcy case is filed or when the case is converted to another chapter of the Bankruptcy Code. Creditors can attend the meeting of creditors and ask questions of the debtor, file objections to confirmation/approval of the plan of reorganization, seek relief from stay to protect their collateral or even file an adversary proceeding to object to the discharge of the debtor or the dischargeability of the debt or claim owed. Mr. Lewis’ bankruptcy case involves all of the above.

3. 11 U.S.C. §341 Meeting of Creditors and Equity Holder

This section of the bankruptcy code requires that a meeting be held that gives creditors an opportunity to ask questions about the income, expenses, assets and bankruptcy petition filed by the person or entity that filed for bankruptcy protection. Depending upon the circumstances no creditors may choose to attend. If so, then the trustee assigned to the case asks the debtor or responsible individual for a business, questions about the bankruptcy petition, their assets and income to verify information in the bankruptcy petition.

4. Filing a Proof of Claim

For a creditor to be paid money from the bankruptcy estate, if any, the creditor must file a proof of the amount they were owed by the debtor at the time the bankruptcy case was filed. A properly filed proof of claim will include documentation of why the creditor is entitled to be paid and how the amount of the claim was calculated. Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 3001 provides the required form and content of a valid claim. A proof of claim executed and filed in accordance with the rules shall constitute prima facie evidence of the validity and amount of the claim. If a debtor disagrees with how a claim is calculate an objection to the proof of claim can be filed. The amount of an allowed claim can mean the difference in a plan of reorganization being financially possible or not. Objecting to improperly or invalid proofs of claims filed is an important part of most reorganizations.

5. Unsecured Creditors Committee Counsel

If a Chapter 11 reorganization case is filed with hundreds of creditors there most likely will be the formation of a general unsecured creditors committee and an attorney appointed to represent all the interests of the unsecured creditors. The general unsecured creditors committee is usually comprised of the largest unsecured claim holders and the general unsecured creditors committee counsel is paid from property of the bankruptcy estate just like the attorney for the debtor. It is inefficient for each unsecured creditor to hire and pay individual attorneys to represent their interests. All general unsecured creditors share from the same pool of money, if any, so it is much more efficient to form a committee and pay one attorney to fight on their behalf.

6. Chapter 7 Trustee

When a Chapter 7 case is filed or converted to Chapter 7 from another chapter a Chapter 7 Trustee is assigned to administer the bankruptcy estate that is created. Chapter 7 trustees are independent contractors hired by the United States Trustee’s Office. Chapter 7 trustees are paid from the filing fee paid to file bankruptcy and a percentage of any assets paid out of the bankruptcy estate for the benefit of creditors. As of the writing of this article the percentages Chapter 7 trustees are paid when distributing assets to creditors are as follows: 25 percent on the first $5,000 or less, 10 percent on any amount in excess of $5,000 but not in excess of $50,000, 5 percent on any amount in excess of $50,000 but not in excess of $1,000,000, and reasonable compensation not to exceed 3 percent of such moneys in excess of $1,000,000, upon all moneys disbursed or turned over in the case by the trustee to parties in interest, excluding the debtor, but including holders of secured claims.

Why Was The Lewis Case Converted From Chapter 11 to Chapter 7?

There could be many reasons. According to the United States Trustee’s May 4, 2012, motion to dismiss, Mr. Lewis failed to file the mandatory documents pursuant to the United States Trustee’s Operating Guidelines and Reporting Requirements. Mr. Lewis and his bankruptcy lawyer also failed to appear for the Initial Debtor Interview. When filing a Chapter 11 reorganization case there are strict reporting guidelines regarding the monthly income and assets of the bankruptcy filer. The debtor is in possession and control of the assets of the bankruptcy estate, and therefore must provide records of what is taking place regarding the income and assets after the Chapter 11 reorganization case is filed.

After the 341 Hearing It Is Clear Why This Reorganization Case Was Converted To Chapter 7 So Quickly

The United States Trustee filed a supplemental motion to dismiss the case or convert the case to Chapter 7 on June 28, 2012, and the motion paints a much clearer picture as to why this case was converted to Chapter 7 liquidation so quickly. The motion provides excerpts from Mr. Lewis’ testimony at the meeting of the creditors. Mr. Lewis’ schedules listed $14,455,854 in assets with the majority of the value coming from JLew Financial, LLC ($6 million) and Grand Empire, LLC ($5 million). Mr. Lewis testified under penalty of perjury at the meeting of the creditors that the value of his interest in both of these limited liability companies was overstated in the schedules and the values are actually much less. Mr. Lewis’ Schedule D (Secured Debts) included claims exceeding $30 million and Schedule F (General Unsecured Claims) listed claims totaling $871,840.78. The UST believed the unsecured debts listed were much, much more. The Internal Revenue Service filed a claim listing unsecured priority debt owed to the IRS totaling $2,155,829.22 and a claim listing a general unsecured claim totaling $172,590.45. Mr. Lewis’ schedules listed the amount owed to Georgia Department of Revenue as $0.00, but the Georgia Department of Revenue filed a mostly priority tax debt claim totaling $1,619,742.41. So basically Mr. Lewis’ assets were actually far less than represented and his debts were far more than represented. To make matters worse Mr. Lewis testified that his income was far less than was his petition listed of $35,000 per month. The two most common ways to reorganize debts are either to make it happen through your income or sale of your assets. So that is that. No assets and no income with over $30 million in secured debt with collateral to be foreclosed on or repossessed and $3,775,571.60 in unsecured priority tax debt that is not dischargeable. The feasibility or possibility of a successful reorganization of Mr. Lewis’ debts is extremely low if not arguably impossible given these asset, income and debt figures. Therefore, after a mere four months after filing a Chapter 11 reorganization case Mr. Lewis’ consented to his case being converted to a Chapter 7 liquidation of this assets.

It is really difficult to speculate as to why Mr. Lewis filed a Chapter 11 case under his financial circumstances. The possibilities range anywhere from not wanting to believe he is going to basically lose it all by filing a Chapter 7 case to begin with, or misinformation about the process or the possible outcomes. From the outside looking in it is very easy to make assumptions and point fingers about what took place and why. The only real way to know the truth is if you were in the room when Mr. Lewis and his bankruptcy attorneys discussed his options, what to do about it and when. Part II of this article sheds light on Mr. Lewis’ case now that it is converted to a case under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code and the addition of the Chapter 7 trustee.

Celebrity and Current Free Agent Vince Young Filed For Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

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On January 17, 2014, ex-football play and celebrity Vince Young filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 of Title 11. Mr. Young filed in the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of California, Bankruptcy Case number 14-30400. Individuals with secured debts over $1,149,525.00 or unsecured debts exceeding $383,175.00 can reorganize their debts under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. It is a much more expensive and complicated process then reorganizing debts under Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code. The fact that Mr. Young filed for Chapter 11 is actually a very good sign regarding his financial situation. Time will tell if Mr. Young can confirm a plan of reorganization. Chapter 13 is reserved for individuals with debts of less than the debt limitations listed above. Chapter 13 is a much simpler, cheaper and streamlined process than reorganizing under Chapter 11.

As of right now Mr. Young’s bankruptcy lawyer has only filed the basic documents necessary to obtain an order for relief and begin the bankruptcy process. It is sometimes called a skeleton petition. There are no schedules of assets, income or expenses filed with the bankruptcy petition. The only indication of Mr. Young’s assets or debts are the boxes checked on the voluntary petition indication the number of creditors (1-49), amount of assets of Mr. Young ($500,001 – $1 million) and debts ($1,000,001 – $10 million. According to these ranges Mr. Young’s debts could far exceed his assets, but what we do not know from anything filed yet is Mr. Young’s income. For someone signed a contract for $58 million contract, with $26 million guaranteed, it is sad to see his asset range of only $500,001 to $1 million. It is early in the bankruptcy case and very little is known. The list of creditors sheds a little more light on the case though. The creditor list provides 20 creditors. A few of those owed money are America’s Servicing Company (mortgage), Applied Visuals, BMW Financial, Brian D. Jewab, David A. Chaumette, Exotic Diamonds, Jeff Heard, Major L. Adams II, Peoples Financial Services, Pro Player Funding LLC, Ronnie T. Peoples and Wells Fargo.

On the upside, there are many possible ways to successfully reorganize debts whether secured or unsecured. Hopefully Mr. Young has a decent income still and assets that will provide his bankruptcy attorney with options to help successfully reorganize Mr. Young’s debts.

One of the problems with reorganizing debts in a Chapter 11 case is the administrative expenses charged. This is includes the fees and costs for the bankruptcy filer’s attorney, the attorney for the unsecured creditors’ committee counsel (if any), accountants and other professionals that have a right to file fee applications for approval of their fees from the assets of the bankruptcy estate. Many creditors receive little to nothing after professionals incur high fees in administering the bankruptcy case. A bankruptcy estate of $2 million dollars can quickly become only $1.5 million or less after professional fees are approved and paid. That is a 25% decrease in assets available for the benefit of creditors. Please continue to check in on our Bay Area Bankruptcy Buzz blog for more information about Mr. Young’s bankruptcy case. We will be providing further information as the case unfolds.

Add Jamal Lafitte Lewis to the List of Pro Athlete and Celebrity Bankruptcy Filings

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On April 3, 2012, former professional football player Jamal Lafitte Lewis filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code in the Northern District of Georgia, Bankruptcy Case No. 12-58938.  Jamal Lewis played for the Baltimore Ravens for years and retired from the NFL in 2009.  While Mr. Lewis has sought protection from his creditors by filing bankruptcy, Chapter 11 is a reorganization of his debts and not necessarily a discharge of debts.  Most likely some of Mr. Lewis’ unsecured debt will be discharged though.  Time will tell if Mr. Lewis actually files a disclosure statement and plan.

Despite having retired from the national football league Mr. Lewis has listed his monthly income as $35,000 a month.  This is impressive given the number of years Mr. Lewis has not played football.  It would appear from the bankruptcy schedules and statements that Mr. Lewis is facing a number of issues in his business life.  In November 2011 $95,000 was seized from the bank accounts of one of his companies, JLew Enterprises, LLC, a company set up for Mr. Lewis’ speaking and appearance engagements.  If $95,000 was seized from JLew Enterprises, LLC, the company was most likely sued and a judgment was obtained, or a creditor obtained a prejudgment writ of attachment to seize the funds.  Seizing funds prior to obtaining a judgment is an extraordinary remedy and does not bode well for JLew Enterprises, LLC.

Mr. Lewis’ schedules and statements also list a theft of $3,000,000 from Mr. Lewis’ trucking company named All American Xpress, Inc. between 2006 – Present.  It would appear that Mr. Lewis’ has been a victim of embezzlement or some other sort of theft related to his trucking company.  One of the most overlooked reasons why someone chooses to file for bankruptcy protection is when they are victimized by others.

Unlike many of the celebrity and pro-athlete bankruptcy filings Mr. Lewis’ has significant personal assets.  Schedule B lists approximately $12 million in assets including 47 foot powerboat, 2005 F-650 XUV trust, 2008 Mercedes GL 550, 2009 Mercedes CL 63, a $250,000 judgment against Bradley Lowery, Jr.  Some of these assets have loans and liens secured against the assets.

The judgment against Bradley Lowery, Jr. resulted from another unfortunate business dealing.  According to court documents, Bankruptcy Case No. 09-06771, Mr. Lewis entered into a contract with Mr. Lowery to build a home at 568 Trabert Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia.  Mr. Lowery received approximately $680,000 of the $2.4 million Mr. Lewis borrowed to build the home.  Mr. Lewis then sued Lowery in Superior Court. The Superior Court Order and subsequent judgment awarded Lewis $1,314,694 in actual damages, $304,000 in consequential damages, $4,010 in attorney’s fees and $250,000 in punitive damages. Lowery then filed for bankruptcy protection himself in October 2009.  Mr. Lewis and his bankruptcy attorney then sued Mr. Lowery seeking a determination that his state court judgment against Mr. Lowery not be discharged in the bankruptcy.  Mr. Lewis was successful, but just because you have the right to collect does not mean you are going to collect.  Mr. Lewis’ schedules list that the judgment against Mr. Lowery is uncollectable.  So now after all the legal wrangling Mr. Lewis is left holding a loan of over $2 million and a partially built house worth $500,000.

Another interesting note in the bankruptcy case is the listing of a claim against the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns and the NFL for worker’s compensation and personal injury.  It is unclear if Mr. Lewis have filed hit own lawsuits or is part of the class action lawsuits we have all heard about regarding concussions.

I tell clients every day that there are a millions reasons why people file bankruptcy.  It would appear that between Mr. Lewis’ unfortunate experience trying to build a home and the alleged theft of $3,000,000 from his trucking company were too much.  Currently there is a motion to dismiss Mr. Lewis’ bankruptcy case.  Hopefully Mr. Lewis and his bankruptcy attorney will do what is necessary for the case to continue and Mr. Lewis can move on to happier things.

Gary Busey Completes the Filing of his Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Schedules and Statements

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William Gary Busey filed the rest of his bankruptcy petition, Bankruptcy Case No. 12-11182, on February 15, 2012.  The section 341 meeting of the creditors is scheduled for March 12, 2012.  Mr. Busey’s bankruptcy petition provides information about his assets, income and expenses.

Surprisingly Mr. Busey’s assets are limited to some personal property with an approximate total value of $26,225.  At the time the bankruptcy case was filed Busey alleges a total of $1,200 in funds in deposit account.  Busy owns no property and alleges his largest single assets is his right to residual income from several television shows and movie parts.

The single largest debt and probable reason why Busey filed for bankruptcy protection is his unpaid taxes.  Busey owes the Internal Revenue Service and Franchise Tax Board a total of $451,297.33 from the years beginning in 1998 to 2009.  The good news for Busy is that around $379,389.33 of the taxes owed is not a priority debt and therefore eligible to be discharged in his bankruptcy.  The remaining $71,908 is a priority debt given that the taxes were not paid for the year 2009 and therefore eligible to be discharged.

Busey’s income is primarily derived from his acting ($14,808.08 a month) and pensions from the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists ($4,021 a month).  Busey also receives social security income each month totaling $770 and some residual income each month totaling $131.63.  His income seems to have been pretty consistent from 2010 to present.  The problem is due to the amount of taxes he owes his monthly income is not large enough to make a dent in repaying the taxes.

You may wonder how an actor who is making over $18,000 a month can qualify to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy and discharge his unsecured debts nonpriority debts.  It is not about how much Busey makes each month but how much he spends.  Busey’s expenses exceed his income by about $2,939 each month.  One of the largest monthly expenses other than his various business expenses is his rent totaling $3,595 each month.  Busey spends another $1,680 in childcare, $763 life insurance, $4,500 in taxes, $700 storage unit, it appears $1,158 for his seventeen old daughter and $7,574 in business expenses.

It is unfortunate to hear about an individual who has made millions of dollars during a lengthy show business career seek bankruptcy protection.  Hopefully Busey can recover from his financial woes and provide some stability for his 23 month old son.

Bankruptcy Can Happen to Anyone, Even William Gary Busey

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On February 7, 2012, Gary Busey, the well-known actor and television personality filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code.  Mr. Busey filed bankruptcy in the Central District of California, Bankruptcy Case No. 12-11182.  A common statement our clients make almost daily is, “I never thought I would be filing for bankruptcy.”  Well, I am here to tell you it can happen to anyone, just ask Gary Busey.

How many high profile celebrities or athletes that have made millions of dollars in earnings and filed for bankruptcy protection?  I have no idea, but every year there are a few of them.  Mr. Busey’s bankruptcy filing is the first of 2012.  Mr. Busey filed what is called a skeleton petition.  A skeleton petition includes the basic forms necessary to initiate the bankruptcy process.  A skeleton petition does not include schedules A – J, which list the bankruptcy filers assets, income, expenses and debts.  Mr. Busey has until February 13, 2012, to complete the bankruptcy petition or the bankruptcy case could be dismissed.  Mr. Busey owes money to the following people or entities: Carla Loffler, Cary W. Goldstein, Franchise Tax Board, Glen Alpert, Internal Revenue Service, Law Offices of Barry Fisher, Los Angeles County, Progressive Management System, Robert E. Young, Santa Monica UCLA Medical, Waste Management, Wells Fargo and Westside Storage.

The voluntary petition lists a range in value of assets from $1 – $50,000 and debts totaling from $500,000 – $1 million.  It appears Mr. Busey has a no asset Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.  A no asset bankruptcy exists when all assets can be protected by California exemptions and therefore there are no assets transferred to the bankruptcy estate for the benefit of those who are owed money.  Exemptions protect assets like vehicles, your stuff and even your home if it has equity.  Most of the exemptions have caps or limits as to how much can be protected.  Most individual Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings are no asset cases.  It is hard to believe that someone like Mr. Busey has less than $50,000 in assets after all the movies and television shows he has appeared in.

Again, bankruptcy can happen to anyone.  It does not matter how much money you make, but how much money you spend.  Many athletes have high monthly expenses.  Having to pay for multiple vehicles and homes throughout the country adds up quick.  Just ask Antoine Walker, formerly a star basketball player for the Boston Celtics.  When the checks stop coming in each month upon retirement or a slow year or two in the movies the bills pile up.  Nobody really understands until it happens to them though.

For more information about how bankruptcy can help you become debt free please contact one of our experienced bankruptcy lawyers or bankruptcy attorneys in Oakland today.