Bankruptcy Lawyer Bryan W. Stone answers the question: “What is the means test?”
A Clinton County, Illinois farmer whose bankruptcy fraud case became intertwined with a double murder in 2007 was released from prison this April to a prison-sanctioned halfway house.
The story decidedly has more colorful details than many a bankruptcy case: A farmer with a penchant for gambling, described by the sentencing judge as a manipulative man who struck fear in others in his tiny rural community. A double murder by shooting. Arson. And a hidden tractor.
The farmer, Joseph Diekemper, is now 68 after completing his 10-year sentence for trying to hide assets and income in his $5 million bankruptcy case. Back when Diekemper first filed for bankruptcy in 2004, his dairy farm was failing, even after he sunk almost all of an $860,000 settlement he had received a year earlier back into the farm. The story was not any more cheerful for Diekemper then than it is now: the settlement money had come from a wrongful death lawsuit after his 15-year-old son died in an accident on the farm. Diekemper said he tried to keep the farm running as a legacy to his son.
However, there were some complications with this story. The FBI had been keeping an eye on Diekemper and his wife since they filed for bankruptcy, suspecting them of lying about real estate assets and farm equipment.
In their investigation, FBI agents made contact with a man named George Weedon in April 2007 and asked him to come in for an interview. Weedon admitted during this phone call that he was storing a high-dollar White 8710 tractor for Diekemper in a barn behind a fake wall. Weedon agreed to come in for an interview, but was nervous about it—he told the FBI agent that he was afraid Diekemper would burn his house down if he found out Weedon had snitched.
And lo and behold, before the meeting with Weedon and the FBI could take place, a fire broke out at the Weedon’s rental property. Weedon and his wife Linda, a hospital worker, were found shot inside.
The Illinois State Police investigated the killings, and it remains an open investigation. The police said there are people they have still not cleared as suspects but declined to elaborate further. The tiny rural Illinois community in which the crimes occurred is so remote that the house fire burned for a substantial amount of time, destroying evidence, before anyone saw it.
Even with the lack of evidence connecting Diekemper to the Weedon’s murders, federal prosecutors were still able to take the farmer to task for lying about millions of dollars in farm equipment and real estate. Diekemper admitted to hiding or undervaluing the millions of dollars in assets. Prosecutors also brought forth evidence that he had racked up more than $100,000 in over 100 trips to local casinos as his farm sunk deeper into debt.
Diekemper also gave contradictory information about the whereabouts of his guns, wanted in connection with the Weedon murders investigation. At least one of the guns has never been found.
The bankruptcy judge noted that Diekemper had lured numerous friends and family members into his fraud. His actions indicated a knowing and continual disregard for the law, the judge emphasized. For this reason the bankruptcy judge gave Diekemper the maximum sentence under federal guidelines for bankruptcy fraud as a deterrent to others.
If you are contemplating bankruptcy in the Charlotte area, please call the skilled lawyers at Arnold & Smith, PLLC find additional resources here. As professionals who are experienced at handling all kinds of bankruptcy matters, our attorneys will provide you with legally sound advice for your particular situation.
About the Author
Kyle Frost joined Arnold & Smith, PLLC in 2013 where he focuses his practice on all aspects of civil litigation and bankruptcy, including: Chapter 7, Chapter 11, Chapter 13, home loan modifications and landlord-tenant issues.
Born and raised in upstate New York, Mr. Frost attended the University at Albany on a Presidential Scholarship, graduating magna cum laude with a double major in Political Science and Sociology. He went on to attended Wake Forest University School of Law in Winston Salem, North Carolina.
Following college, Mr. Frost spent over a year teaching English in South Korea. He worked in a private school in Seoul developing curriculum, English programs, and educating both children and adults that were interested in learning a new language.
In his spare time, Mr. Frost enjoys homebrewing, fishing, and travelling.
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