Los Angeles, California - A San Bernardino County man was sentenced Thursday to 12 months and one day in federal prison for continuing to act as a bankruptcy petition preparer (BPP) – despite court orders and injunctions barring him from doing so – and then repeatedly lying to bankruptcy courts about it.
Richard Allen Mease, 63, of Victorville, was sentenced by United States District Judge John F. Walter, who also ordered him to pay $84,005 in restitution split among 30 victims. Mease pleaded guilty on May 20 to one felony count of making a false statement during a bankruptcy proceeding.
In June 2010, a bankruptcy court imposed a $4,000 fine on Mease for violating a federal law concerning individuals who negligently or fraudulently file bankruptcy petitions. The court also ordered Mease to pay $2,000 to the debtor in that case. In May 2011 the court further issued an injunction barring him from preparing or assisting in preparing bankruptcy petitions in the Central District of California until he had paid the fine and the $2,000 he owed to the debtor. The injunction was never lifted because Mease never complied with the court’s June 2010 order.
In November 2013, in a separate bankruptcy proceeding, Mease was held in civil contempt for continuing to act as a BPP in violation of the May 2011 injunction. Mease then proceeded to circumvent the injunction by falsely representing in bankruptcy petitions his involvement as a BPP.
For example, in May 2018, Mease willfully caused a false declaration and statement under penalty of perjury to be made in a bankruptcy case pending in the Central District of California. Mease caused to be submitted an official form which stated “No” to the question, “Did you pay or agree to pay someone who is not an attorney to help you fill out your bankruptcy forms?” In fact, Mease was the BPP for the bankruptcy petition in that case.
From November 2011 to May 2018, Mease prepared at least 10 bankruptcy petitions in this manner.
Mease sometimes charged debtors between $300 and $500 to prepare their bankruptcy petitions, and, in some cases, charged debtors between $1,000 and $3,000 to do so – despite a court injunction barring him from working as a BPP. Under applicable law and regulations, a BPP is permitted to charge fees of up to $200 to prepare and file a bankruptcy petition.
The FBI investigated this matter. The Office of the United States Trustee provided substantial assistance.
Assistant United States Attorney Eli A. Alcaraz of the Riverside Branch Office prosecuted this case.