by Brian Mahany
People ask why we frequently turn down “easy” cases. The answer is simple; there is more to winning than just winning in court and obtaining a judgment. On contingent fee cases (sometimes called “success” fees), neither the lawyer nor the client gets paid unless actual money is recovered. Suing someone already in prison is relatively easy. Collecting is something else.
We feel that we are better at collecting than most lawyers but even we can’t get blood out of a stone. The key to successful judgment recovery is identifying assets and other deep pockets. These are third parties who may have some responsibility for the loss suffered by our clients. Examples include the insurance companies that issued policies to fund bogus 419 plans and the brokerage firm that employed the negligent stockbroker.
Sometimes we face a different problem, however – clients that won’t hire us because they believe the government will collect their money. As a former assistant attorney general and state assistant district attorney, much of my career has been spent bringing fraudsters to justice. That doesn’t make victims whole, however.
A few days ago I wrote about a CPA sentenced to several years in prison for his role in a massive tax evasion scheme. For his role, the court saddled him with a $115,700,000 restitution order. Although the guy could hit the Powerball lottery when he gets out, that is about the only way he will ever make enough money to pay his restitution bill. Disbarred, convicted aging felons are lucky to get a minimum wage job.
Don’t believe me? According to the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO), 96% of court ordered restitution in white collar criminal cases goes unpaid. The judge can order repayment but there is little that can be done to enforce those orders. Most people will never have the ability to get a job to make their restitution payments.
What is the solution? Unfortunately, there isn’t always one. First, don’t delay and hope the government will get your money back. Prosecutors, judges, probation officers and cops do what they can but restitution is not their primary focus. Delay usually doesn’t work in your favor. The longer you wait, the more assets dissipate and insurance is depleted.
Second, find a great lawyer. Anyone can sue a guy in jail. It takes talent and experience, however, to ferret out hidden assets and identify third parties who may be responsible.
We have helped people all over the United States recover millions of dollars from criminals, dishonest lawyers, deceitful stockbrokers, cheating accountants and fraudulent tax shelters / welfare benefit plans. For more information, contact attorney Brian Mahany at or by telephone at (414) 704-6731 (direct). All inquiries protected by the attorney – client privilege and are held in strict confidence.
Mahany & Ertl – America’s Tax and Fraud Lawyers. Offices in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Detroit, Michigan; Portland, Maine; Minneapolis, Minnesota and San Francisco, California. Services available in many locations.
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