Uncovering hidden assets is a very common investigative type of case. It’s done for many reasons. Sometimes it’s a business deal gone bad, sometimes it’s a judgment against the person, but more frequently we’re seeing in family law cases and divorce cases where one party is attempting to conceal or diminish assets so that they’re not recoverable by the other party. And there’s a good article at a very high level about a dissolution of a marriage where one party is looking to hide actually billions of dollars from the other party. One thing that we found over many years of looking at these types of family law cases, unlike more seasoned fraudsters or narcotics traffickers, a person hiding assets in a divorce case is going to be much less sophisticated in how they attempt to conceal the assets, even with the highest level of asset concealment. 

Assets can be found; just the act of trying to hide the assets and the attempt to do it creates its own paper trail and that leads to the asset and self. In some cases, hiding the asset is more visible than the asset itself. In this case, here’s an example of somebody trying to hide $3 billion in assets and the methods of that were discoverable. So somebody’s trying to hide two or three or $400,000 or even a million dollars is probably not going to be sophisticated, even in this case. And they will be found. It’s a perfect example where they have this person that has a $45 million mansion and they’re getting divorced. And one party says she’d settle for less than a hundred million. She’d be happy with that. This is what the wife says just to pay my bills and move on. The husband is estimated to be worth a billion but they’re not willing to settle for a hundred million. Right. They have many assets: a 180-foot yacht and a 72-acre island in The Bahamas, these are all assets that are easily discovered, right? And they’re assets that have not been hidden very very well. In the meantime, the wife is getting $20,000 a month in spousal support. Supposedly it’s going all to her attorneys. So even with that amount of money so far there hasn’t been the ability to schedule a settlement of the case. Here are some deposition transcripts for a 43-carat diamond necklace. And the debtor is claiming that they don’t remember that. Right. 

Hiding assets may seem like it’s an easy thing to do. A lot of clients or potential clients look for ways to hide assets and our recommendation is there’s not going to be any way that an asset can be hidden that can’t be discovered. We’ve even had cases where clients have transferred assets into physical goods poker chips, gold bars, or something else, and tried to hide those, but those can still be discovered. This one has to do with domestic asset protection trusts and this is a way to protect those assets or future creditors. But in many cases, the asset is still shown to be in that person’s name if they’re benefiting from it. Some of these assets don’t even go overseas. South Dakota is a state where you can do some of these asset trusts allowing assets to be decanted from one trust to another without any notice to beneficiaries. You notice what the attorney says South Dakota is almost bulletproof, that’s the keyword almost right. It talks about the states that are most common for this, Nevada, South Dakota, Ohio, Missouri Connecticut. The bottom line is at assets exist. Movement of them creates a record at each step of the way each one of those records will show that an asset not only existed but was transferred from one form to another. And in many cases, we found that courts don’t like to see a debtor or a party to litigation moving assets around. And sometimes they’ll use the fact that those assets were transferred as a reason to put more sanctions on a defendant or on a debtor to come forth with more information or even pay the attorney’s fees for the other side because they’re operating in bad faith. So if a $3 billion asset concealment can be pierced then anything can where the person does not spend as much money or put as much diligence into the process certainly has the ability for a well-skilled highly experienced private investigator licensed investigator to discover assets, no matter how well the debtor thinks they’ve hidden them and what steps they’ve come up with usually at an amateur level to try to make the assets not apparently in their name.

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