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Benefit from the Experience of Attorneys Bill and Valerie Sherman Former Assistant Attorney General, Assistant County Attorneys and Magistrate Judge

Are You Able to Retain Your Possessions When You File For Bankruptcy?

Question: My husband was sent to prison for stealing from his company. He worked in Alpharetta at a technology business but he had a drinking problem and he developed a gambling issue. He lost a lot of money at Internet casinos and in Las Vegas and even at Atlantic City, NJ. I didn't work but that was mostly because I had to take care of my elderly parents and because I had an eating disorder called anorexia.

I thought my husband was making a lot of money but actually most of it was stolen. He told me he invented stuff and invested in oil wells and a party supply store but it was just ripped off. I used my credit cards to pay for a lot of stuff, things like gym memberships in Woodstock and Marietta, a new pool and sauna from a company in Buckhead, books at Barnes & Noble and I even made political contributions to both Republicans and Democrats running for office in North Fulton County. I bought clothes for my son and daughter at malls in Atlanta and in Cumming. I love Ralph Lauren, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus.

Now that I file to file bankruptcy I want to know if I have to give any stuff back that I purchased.

Answer: Based on the facts as you relate them, it does not appear that you would have to return any purchases. It sounds like you made the purchases when your husband was ostensibly earning the money legally on credit cards that were validly issued. You did not know that the funds you were using were, to a large extent, "fruits" of criminal activity. Certainly most people who file for protection under the bankruptcy law do not have to return merchandise or take similar actions regarding political contributions. There might, however, be an issue regarding asset forfeiture pursuant to a criminal conviction.

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