LOS ANGELES – A Calabasas-based real estate developer has been indicted in a bankruptcy fraud case that also alleges he laundered funds through shell companies in order to hide them from his creditors.
Mark Handel, 66, was charged in a nine-count indictment unsealed today with one count of making a false statement in a bankruptcy case, two counts of concealing assets belonging to a bankruptcy estate, one count of falsely testifying under oath at a bankruptcy proceeding, and five counts of money laundering.
Handel’s arraignment is scheduled for February 16 in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles.
According to the indictment, Handel worked as a developer of commercial and residential real estate for more than 30 years. In April 2015, Handel filed a chapter 11 petition in United States Bankruptcy Court in Woodland Hills and subsequently made a series of false statements to avoid debts exceeding $10 million that he owed to creditors, including California Bank and Trust (CBT), the indictment alleges.
The indictment further alleges that Handel formed multiple corporations and limited liability companies to conceal his income and his involvement in real estate development projects. Handel purposely failed to put his name on the corporations and entities in order to conceal and disguise his business activities and to deceive his creditors, the indictment alleges. Handel allegedly used his wife – who had no real estate business experience – and others as nominee partners, managers and owners of the LLCs that he in fact controlled.
One such corporation – DTMM, which Handel told his friends and business associates stood for “Don’t Touch My Money” – allegedly was used by Handel to conceal the proceeds of his unlawful activity. Handel caused DTMM to be registered in his wife’s name, but he used the corporation for all his personal expenses, according to the indictment.
On his initial and amended bankruptcy petitions, as well as during a creditors’ hearing and at other proceedings, Handel willfully made materially false statements under penalty of perjury, the indictment alleges.
Throughout the bankruptcy case, Handel allegedly lied by stating that he was unemployed, had been unemployed for many years, and had no business or income. In reality, Handel maintained a financial interest in properties in Los Angeles, Orange, and Alameda counties and, from 2008 to 2016, he received $4,644,529 in income as “kickbacks” on an easement as part of a real estate deal, according to the indictment.
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.
If convicted of all charges, Handel would face a statutory maximum sentence of 120 years in federal prison.
This matter was investigated by the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation, with assistance from the Office of the United States Trustee.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Ruth C. Pinkel and Agustin D. Orozco of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section. The forfeiture portion of the case is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Jonathan S. Galatzan of the Asset Forfeiture Section.