Federal Laws for "Bankruptcy Fraud" (18 U.S.C. § 157)
Explained by Nevada Criminal Defense Attorneys

The rise of bankruptcy cases in Nevada has inevitably spurred a rise in the white-collar crime of bankruptcy fraud. The punishment may include steep fines and years in prison. But a Nevada criminal defense attorney who is experienced in this kind of law may be able to get the charges lessened or thrown out altogether.

This article gives a summary of the federal crime of bankruptcy fraud in Nevada. Continue reading to learn about the definition of bankruptcy fraud, how to defend against criminal charges, and what penalties a conviction may carry.


The legal definition of "federal bankruptcy fraud" in Nevada is very much like it sounds. It is when someone who is pursuing Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection tries to defraud Bankruptcy Court by intentionally filing fraudulent documents or making false claims. Typical fraudulent acts that may invite prosecution include:

  • concealment of assets
  • destruction of paperwork and records
  • untrue declarations

Beatty NV criminal defense attorney Michael Becker provides an example of bankruptcy fraud:

Example: Nelson applies for bankruptcy protection in Henderson. He files a "plan of arrangements" where he lies about receiving a loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) when he actually did not. If Nelson is caught, the U.S. Marshals Service could book him at the Henderson NV Detention Center for bankruptcy fraud for intentionally lying about the loan.

Note that Nelson would not be guilty of fraud if he honestly believed that he received the loan or if he accidentally submitted the loan information. Federal fraud law is meant only to punish people who deliberately try to perpetrate a fraudulent scheme.

Also note that falsification of bankruptcy forms could cause the defendant to be charged with the federal crime of perjury as well.


Every bankruptcy is different, and the specific circumstances of the case determine which defense strategies would be the most successful to fight fraud charges. Below are some of the more common defenses:

  • Lack of intent to defraud. Bankruptcies are very complex processes, and courts fully expect that people will make honest mistakes when completing and submitting paperwork. If the defense attorney can show that the defendant always acted in good faith and never deliberately set out to trick the system, the defendant should not be held criminally liable.
  • Lack of sufficient evidence to convict. In all criminal cases including bankruptcy fraud, the U.S. Attorney's Office bears the burden of proof to demonstrate to the court that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Consequently, the defense attorney's responsibility is to carry out a thorough investigation to attempt to show the court that there is inadequate evidence to justify a criminal conviction.
  • Lack of proper police protocol. On occasion, a whole criminal case can be dropped based solely on police misconduct. If law enforcement may have conducted an illegal search to find evidence in a bankruptcy fraud investigation, then the defense lawyer could file with the judge a "Nevada motion to suppress evidence". If the Nevada Federal Court proceeds to grant the motion and disregard all the illegally-obtained evidence, then the prosecution may dismiss the entire case because of insufficient evidence to convict.
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The sentence for a conviction of the federal crime of bankruptcy fraud in Nevada is:

Note that all federal criminal cases are heard in either one of two courthouses: Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse in Las Vegas, or the Bruce R. Thompson Federal Courthouse in Reno.

Accused? Call us . . . .

If you have been arrested for bankruptcy fraud in Nevada, call 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) to talk for free with our Nevada federal criminal defense attorneys. Our goal is to try to negotiate and litigate the best resolution possible for your case.


 Also see our article on the federal crime of presenting false or fictitious claims. 

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