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Can Lying on a Government Form Really Lead to Criminal Charges?

Many white collar crime prosecutions in Texas begin when someone allegedly makes a false or misleading statement to a government agency. Keep in mind that any time you sign a document “under penalty of perjury,” you are subject to prosecution if the government thinks you are not telling the whole truth. And things can get especially tricky if prosecutors believe a lie or omission is part of a larger scheme to defraud the government in some manner.

Texas Jury Convicts Defendant of Bankruptcy Fraud

For example, a federal jury recently convicted a Texas man of four counts of fraud in connection with a prior bankruptcy proceeding. According to prosecutors, the defendant faced an $812,000 civil judgment issued by a state court in Houston. To avoid paying this judgment, prosecutors said the defendant used a trust fund created by a relative “to hide payments he was receiving for consulting work.” These trust then funneled these payments to a corporation created and run by the defendant, who used the money to pay for a new house in Highland Park and defray his monthly living expenses.

Later, the defendant filed for bankruptcy protection. Federal law requires debtors to make full, honest, and accurate disclosures of all sources of income to a court-appointed bankruptcy trustee. Here, prosecutors said the defendant neglected to disclose his consulting income and house purchase on his bankruptcy papers. In addition, when cross-examined during the bankruptcy case, the defendant testified that he “received one check” from his consulting work “by mistake,” when in fact he received at least two additional payments.

It was this statement that led a jury to convict the defendant of “giving false testimony under oath.” Separately, the jury also found the defendant guilty of making false statements on his bankruptcy documents. The defendant asked the court for an acquittal notwithstanding the jury’s verdict, but the trial judge declined to do so.

In a written opinion issued on August 3, 2018, the judge said there was sufficient evidence supporting the jury’s verdict. With respect to the defendant’s prior testimony regarding payments he received, the judge noted that a lie of omission is still a lie. Put another way, when asked if he received any income from his consulting work, the defendant could have simply answered “yes.” Instead, he said he received one payment by mistake. But in fact, the defendant received additional payments from his consulting clients as well as the trust.

Get Help from a Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

It really should go without saying, but you should never lie to the government. Even a “small” lie can come back to bite you later. And do not assume you will be able to talk your way out of criminal prosecution by saying it was a “mistake” or an “oversight.” The truth is that once you are under criminal investigation, you are already in serious trouble and need to contact a qualified League City and Galveston white collar criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Call the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Galveston at (281) 280-0100 if you are facing any type of fraud, perjury, or counterfeiting charges.