Home Philadelphia Press Releases 2014 Chester County Lawyer and Client Charged with Bankruptcy Fraud

Chester County Lawyer and Client Charged with Bankruptcy Fraud

U.S. Attorney’s Office May 30, 2014
  • Eastern District of Pennsylvania (215) 861-8200

PHILADELPHIA—Indictments were filed yesterday charging a Pennsylvania attorney and his client in a bankruptcy fraud scheme, announced United States Attorney Zane David Memeger. Pietro A. Barbieri, esq., 61, of Exton, Pennsylvania, was retained by Deborah Messner, 59, of Glenmoore, Pennsylvania, for a divorce and bankruptcy matter. Barbieri is charged with bankruptcy fraud, agent concealing property in bankruptcy, and attempted obstruction of official proceeding. Messner is charged with concealing property in bankruptcy and two counts of false oath in bankruptcy proceeding.

According to the indictments, in February 2009, Messner and Barbieri began discussing Messner’s bankruptcy and she transferred possession of a Chevrolet Corvette to her father. In April of 2009, while assisting her in her divorce settlement, Barbieri allegedly advised Messner to set up an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) where she could deposit the $193,000 in proceeds from the divorce. According to the indictments, Barbieri advised Messner that “additional time will be required in order to protect this substantially larger fund from the grasp of the United States Bankruptcy Court.” It is further alleged that Barbieri later advised “If your funds are in place at the time you declare bankruptcy then they are not subject to confiscation.”

On May 19, 2009, after withdrawing $125,000 from the IRA account, Messner, with Barbieri’s counsel, filed a bankruptcy petition for relief under Chapter 7. In the petition, Messner claimed $84,410 in exempt assets and sought relief from unsecured debts totaling $86,861.47. Messner allegedly concealed the transfer of the Chevrolet Corvette, the divorce settlement proceeds, all of her unsecured creditors, and $22,000 which she transferred to pay Barbieri’s fee.

It is further alleged that on Jun 30, 2009, both Messner and Barbieri appeared at a Section 341 Meeting of Creditors and provided false statements about the bankruptcy petition’s accuracy; that they appeared at a Rule 2004 bankruptcy proceeding on October 7, 2009 and, again, Messner provided false testimony; and that Barbieri false represented that the IRA began to receive monies as part of the divorce settlement on August 1, 2009.

If convicted of all charges, Barbieri faces a statutory maximum sentence of 35 years in prison, a fine of up to $1million, three years of supervised release, and a $400 special assessment; Messner faces a statutory maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, a fine of up to $750,000, three years of supervised release, and a $300 special assessment.

The case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Anita Eve.

An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.