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December 22, 2017

How to Get Away With Bankruptcy Fraud
By Paul Kiel

Prosecutions of bankruptcy fraud weren’t always as rare as they are now. In 1988, when Tighe began her career as a prosecutor in Los Angeles, her sole responsibility was combatting such fraud. Even then, the area demanded attention due to the extremely high number of filings by debtors without attorneys and the proliferation of petition preparers. Tighe asked, “If nobody follows the law, and there’s no enforcement mechanisms or enforcement resources, what good is the law?” (Kendrick Brinson for ProPublica) “I put a lot of them in jail,” Tighe said of the early innovators of fraud in the district. Into the 1990s, bankruptcy prosecutions remained a priority. In 1996, then Attorney General Janet Reno launched a national effort focused on the problem called “Operation Total Disclosure.” But national statistics show these prosecutions began to dwindle after 2001. By 2011, the number of federal prosecutions in which a bankruptcy crime was the lead charge had dropped by more than half, according to data compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
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