Many people believe that filing a Las Vegas bankruptcy is a difficult, expensive process. Instead of finding a lawyer, they decide to do the work themselves. Or at least most of it. They then hire bankruptcy petition preparers, people who draft their bankruptcy petitions for fees ranging from $75 to $500, and advocate their own cases from there. It doesn’t work well, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports on what happens when things go wrong.
One debtor, Richard Marek, paid a woman named Jennell McKinley $180 to prepare his bankruptcy petition. Things went downhill from there. McKinley worked with another woman, Dawn Gomez Bess who had previously been barred from preparing bankruptcy petitions and was fined $46,000 by a bankruptcy judge. McKinley botched the petition, which was filled with errors. Marek characterized the meeting with the creditors as “a complete nightmare.” He later found out that McKinley’s office used a fictitious address. As a result, Bankruptcy Judge Pamela Pepper held McKinley in contempt and referred the matter to criminal authorities. According to the Journal Sentinel, McKinley is the fifth bankruptcy preparer to be found in contempt of court. The happy ending, such as it is, is that a local attorney took on Marek’s case pro bono.
Richard Marek’s story is a crystal clear reason to avoid bankruptcy petition preparers. They are often incompetent, fraudulent, do no work for their fees, and after paying them there’s a chance the petitioners’ cases will get dismissed anyway due to factual errors, lifting the automatic stay and leaving them on the hook for their debts. Bankruptcy petitioners stand to gain much more than their attorneys do. Often, a successful bankruptcy can result in the discharge of tens of thousands of dollars of unsecured debt. It can save debtors money on other debts over the long run. The price of paying more for a bankruptcy attorney is better than risking a dismissed case or a foreclosure.
For more questions about bankruptcy in Las Vegas, please feel free to contact an experienced Haines & Krieger Las Vegas bankruptcy attorney for a free initial consultation by calling 702-880-5554.