Inland Empire Man Arrested on Indictment Alleging He Repeatedly Caused False Statements to Be Made in Bankruptcy Court Petitions
RIVERSIDE, California – A San Bernardino County man who worked as a bankruptcy petition preparer (BPP) was arrested today on federal criminal charges that allege he acted as an unlicensed attorney in bankruptcy cases, charged fees well over those permitted by law and then repeatedly lied to the United States Bankruptcy Court.
Richard Allen Mease, 62, of Victorville, was taken into custody this morning by special agents with the FBI. Mease is scheduled to be arraigned on an indictment this afternoon in United States District Court in Riverside.
The indictment, which was returned Wednesday by federal grand jury, charges Mease with four counts of making a false statement in a bankruptcy proceeding. The indictment alleges that, on at least four separate occasions, Mease concealed his identity as a BPP on bankruptcy petitions he prepared on behalf of clients.
Under applicable law and regulations, a BPP is permitted to charge fees of up to $200 to prepare and file a bankruptcy petition, but is not permitted to offer or provide legal advice.
Mease repeatedly violated these laws and regulations since at least September 2009, charging clients fees well over the legally permitted limit and acting as an unlicensed lawyer, the indictment alleges. In response to these violations, a bankruptcy court in 2011 barred him from acting as a BPP after he had charged a client more than $1,000 for BPP services and provided legal advice, according to the indictment. In 2013, the bankruptcy court issued another order holding Mease in contempt of court for continuing to prepare bankruptcy petitions in violation of the injunction.
But Mease allegedly continued to break the law and violate the court’s injunction against him. On four occasions between November 2016 and May 2018, Mease charged his clients multiple times over the amount permitted by law to prepare their bankruptcy petitions and caused false statements to be filed in their petitions, the indictment alleges.
For example, in November 2016, Mease allegedly charged one client $950 for BPP services. According to the indictment, Mease caused a false statement to be made under penalty of perjury in the bankruptcy petition which stated “No” to the question, “Did you pay or agree to pay someone who is not an attorney to help you fill out your bankruptcy forms?”
On another bankruptcy petition that contained a similar false statement, Mease charged his clients $1,550 in fees for BPP services, the indictment alleges.
If convicted of all charges, Mease would face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The case was investigated by the FBI, which received substantial assistance from the Office of the United States Trustee.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Natasha Haney of the Riverside Branch Office.