Former Hamilton Man Sentenced to Prison for Bankruptcy Fraud
MISSOULA—A former Hamilton man who concealed assets from a bankruptcy trustee and lied under oath during a bankruptcy deposition was sentenced today to four months’ imprisonment and four months home confinement by the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana. Timothy James Pulliam, a 67-year-old contractor from Las Mesa, California, was convicted of two counts of concealing assets and one count of false oath in bankruptcy after being found guilty during a two-day jury trial.
In a sentencing memorandum filed with the court, the U.S. Attorney’s Office told the court that Pulliam and his wife filed for bankruptcy on April 7, 2010. According to a deposition of their former attorney, prior to filing the Pulliams’ schedules, the attorney met with the Pulliams for over twenty-four hours over two days during which the Pulliams discussed a 1957 Thunderbird extensively. It was Pulliams’ plan to sell the car in order to raise enough money to finish a large house the Pulliams were building in Hamilton. The Thunderbird was listed in the Pulliams’ bankruptcy schedules as personal property valued at $80,000. An enclosed trailer was also listed in their bankruptcy schedules with a value of $10,000.
Assistant U.S. Trustee Neal Jensen held a section 341 meeting of creditors on June 17, 2010. Jensen asked Pulliam how he planned to maintain the Chapter 11 case. Pulliam responded, “I’d like to sell the ‘57 T-Bird. It was a car that I had when I was—my first car in high school, and I kept it all these years.” Pulliam also stated, “I’m the second owner of the car.”
On July 16, 2010, the Pulliams’ Chapter 11 bankruptcy was converted to Chapter 7 on a motion by the U.S. Trustee. Chapter 7 Trustee Richard Samson held a meeting of creditors on September 10, 2010. At the meeting, Pulliam stated that he had a title to the Thunderbird, and he had an enclosed 2006 thirty-foot trailer at his residence.
On October 4, 2010, Pulliam, Samson and a classic car appraiser met at the Pulliams’ residence. Pulliam supplied the keys to a number of his vehicles but claimed that he could not find the keys to the Thunderbird. Samson suggested that they put the car in neutral in order to move it, but Pulliam objected, stating that the car was not insured if it went into possession of a third party.
Sometime between October 4th and October 9th, 2010, the Thunderbird and enclosed trailer disappeared. Samson spoke with Pulliam, who stated that he had no idea what happened to the Thunderbird.
Assistant U.S. Trustee Jensen conducted a deposition of Pulliam on November 10, 2010, to discuss the Thunderbird. By that time Pulliam stated, under oath, that he had given the car to his son in 2005. Pulliam supported his claim by asserting that the car’s title listed “Timothy J. Pulliam,” a name shared by his son. Pulliam stated that he suspected that his son had taken the car and trailer from Pulliams’ residence without Pulliam’s knowledge, but he did not know that for certain. Pulliam also indicated that the first time he had seen his bankruptcy schedules was at the Chapter 7 meeting of creditors on September 10, 2010, and he had neither reviewed nor signed the schedules before they were filed.
On November 14, 2010, a new attorney filed amended schedules on behalf of the Pulliams. The schedules, signed by Pulliam under penalty of perjury, no longer listed the Thunderbird and trailer as the Pulliams’ property.
On December 13, 2010, Samson continued the Chapter 7 meeting of creditors he had begun on September 10th. Pulliam admitted he had lied under oath at the September 10th hearing and, this time, claimed that he called his son and told him to come get the car.
In February 2011, a family member contacted Pulliam’s son about the 1957 Thunderbird. Pulliam’s son traveled from California to Montana, where his father met him. Pulliam asked his son to state that he had possessed and owned the 1957 Thunderbird and enclosed trailer. On February 10, 2011, Pulliam’s son testified in the manner requested by his father in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Montana. In fact, Pulliam’s son had never owned nor been in possession of the 1957 Thunderbird and trailer.
Prior to the hearing, on February 9, 2011, Samson had filed an adversary proceeding against Pulliam’s son seeking a declaratory judgment that the 1957 Thunderbird and trailer were property of the bankruptcy estate. Pulliam created false bills of sale in an attempt to show he had transferred the Thunderbird and trailer to his son. On June 10, 2011, the bankruptcy court entered a default judgment against Pulliam’s son declaring that the Thunderbird and trailer are property of the Chapter 7 estate.
On October 30, 2012, an IRS Special Agent interviewed one of Pulliam’s neighbors. The neighbor stated that in the fall or early winter of 2010, Pulliam asked if he could store a vehicle on the neighbor’s property. The neighbor agreed to help, and Pulliam showed up a day or two later with a 1957 Ford Thunderbird. Later the neighbor also discovered a white utility trailer on his property; the Thunderbird was no longer present. According to the neighbor, the trailer remained on his property for one or two months before it disappeared. Just prior to the trailer’s disappearance, Pulliam stated he needed to turn the Thunderbird over to the bankruptcy court in order to pay some of his creditors.
California DMV documents show that Pulliam and his mother were owners of the Thunderbird, and its title was never transferred to Pulliam’s son.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Trustee’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Internal Revenue Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Chad Spraker prosecuted the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.