Federal Jury Convicts North Huntingdon Man on All Charges in Bankruptcy Fraud Trial
PITTSBURGH—A Westmoreland County man has been convicted by a federal jury in Pittsburgh on charges of bankruptcy fraud, concealment of assets, and making false statements under oath, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.
Michael J. Free, 62, of Center Highway, North Huntingdon, PA 15642, had been charged in a six-count indictment that was tried to a jury before United States District Court Judge Mark R. Hornak. The jury returned guilty verdicts on all six counts.
According to the evidence presented during the trial, Free filed fraudulent documents during a bankruptcy that he filed in July of 2010. Among the matters for which he was convicted were filing a false Schedule A that failed to identify to the Bankruptcy Court a residence he owned in Fayette County, as well as a false Schedule B that failed to list the majority of the guns that Free had in a large collection of World War II era machine guns and rifles. The jury heard that at one point the Trustee supervising Free’s bankruptcy learned that Free was selling some of his guns through Internet advertising. After the Trustee reported this activity to the Court the Bankruptcy Court judge ordered Free to file an accounting with the Court listing all the guns sold and how much he had received for each sale. Free filed yet another false document claiming that nothing had been sold and that there was nothing to account for. The jury also found Free guilty for lying under oath at a meeting of creditors held during the Bankruptcy process.
Judge Hornak did not set a sentencing date but indicated that sentencing would take place in approximately 120 days. The law provides for a maximum total sentence at each of the six counts of conviction of up to five years in prison, and a fine of up to $250,000 or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation, based on a referral by the Office of the United States Bankruptcy Trustee, leading to the charges in this case.