By Rosemary K. Otzman
Independent Editor and
Independent Special Writer
Thomas A. White, disbarred Belleville attorney who is seeking Chapter 7 bankruptcy, took an oath to tell the truth at his 341(a) meeting of creditors on Aug. 28 in Detroit.
Then, he invoked the Fifth Amendment twice refusing to incriminate himself with testimony after questions were asked by creditors.
The Bankruptcy Trustee for White’s filing is Wendy Turner Lewis, but she was out of town on Aug. 28, so Basil T. Simon sat in for her at the hearing for those scheduled for the six 341(a) meetings set for 11 a.m.
Simon has served as a Chapter 7 panel trustee for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court since 1982. Trustees are appointed by the Justice Department to review the case for accuracy and to discover any assets which may not have been disclosed in bankruptcy papers.
Each person seeking bankruptcy presented a photo ID, a Social Security card, swore an oath that all the information he had provided was accurate, answered a few questions from Simon on his situation, and was dismissed within minutes.
When it came time for White’s session, however, it took much more time. He was sworn in and said his name was Thomas Andrew White. His bankruptcy attorney Stuart A. Gold went on the record to say he was present to serve on behalf of the petitioner.
This time, Simon turned over the questioning to Tracy Clark, an attorney representing Wendy Turner Lewis.
Clark asked if the paperwork filed by White was correct and Gold replied that there may be additional creditors. White also stated there possibly would be more creditors.
In his bankruptcy filing, White stated he had 1-49 creditors, had estimated assets of $100,000 to $200,000, and estimated liabilities of $1 million to $10 million.
He had listed 14 creditors on his filing, which included Ford Motor Credit twice, the IRS, State of Michigan Treasury Department, a credit union, Sallie Mae Servicing Corp., the man who built his house that he is buying on land contract, and seven individuals.
Besides individual creditors giving their names at the beginning of the meeting, John Gwyn from Charter One Bank wanted to make a statement. He said a lawsuit is pending in Wayne County Circuit Court and three of White’s accounts were frozen. He asked White’s attorney to provide the documents.
Clark said White would provide documents to the trustee, if requested. Gold said he had no response, but if requested White would decide whether to provide the documents.
Daniel Vogt, a Ypsilanti attorney who has worked for the UAW legal services plan asked for files, documents or record of fees for his client, relative to a July 15 bounced check.
White invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself.
Matthew Copeland said White was supposed to arrange payment to seven creditors under his disbarment agreement. He wanted those documents.
Aaron Silvenis, of the Cohen/Lerner/Rabinovitz law firm in Royal Oak, said he represented the Gallaway creditors and requested a Rule 2004 Examination coordinated among all the victims’ attorneys and the trustee.
Simon asked all attorneys present to leave their business cards with him.
A 2004 exam is more formal than a 341 meeting and can cover actions, conduct, or property. Simon said evidence could be presented.
Jeffrey Hamilton, who was present with his wife Georgina, said he wanted to make sure they are listed as creditors, since they didn’t get a notice of this meeting. He was told they are listed and their notice went to their attorney Sheldon L. Miller.
Hamilton said Thomas White entered into an agreement to pay them $50,000 in a consent judgment last October for malpractice, which said was “a type of fraud.”
A woman told Clark she wanted her paperwork from the divorce White handled for her and Gold said, “That won’t be a problem.” He took her address and phone number.
After the meeting the woman told the Independent White destroyed her in the divorce he handled and now she is being hounded by the IRS as a result of his work. She came to the hearing with an Independent clutched in her hand. The newspaper carried information about the location of the meeting.
A man said he was a client and wanted to know why he was listed as a creditor.
White said, “You made statements to me that I owe you money.”
He and his wife told the Independent they were more interested in filing a malpractice case. The man had suffered a heart attack over trying to purchase a home and had given White money for a purchase agreement.
Another man said attorney White told him the court agreed to a $525,000 settlement for him. He said White told him he received the check and the check bounced.
“Was this true?” he asked. “What happened to the check?
“I never received a check and never told you I received a check,” White responded.
“I have proof,” the man replied. “I taped it and you said it.”
He asked for his file.
White said he could get a copy of his file. White reportedly has been copying files at his home to give to former clients.
Simon, the bankruptcy trustee, advised the man to talk to an attorney.
After the meeting, the man told the Independent he never would have retired from his job had he not been told by White that his settlement check was ready.
At this point in the meeting, Clark asked White if there have been significant changes in his financial status and he replied, “Business has been remarkably down the last couple of years.
She asked if he had a Pay Pal account and he said he did, but it had no funds.
“You provided the attorney with a bank statement that you made a $100,000 deposit into your Genisys [credit union] account” and she named the Belleville senior citizen the money came from.
White again took the Fifth Amendment.
She named a man, a former client, that White’s records show was paid $26,000 from the Genisys account on April 11, 2013.
White said he was entitled to the refund and it was money the man had paid to him.
Clark asked if that money had been deposited into his Genisys account and White said he does not remember.
She asked about an $8,000 withdrawal on April 12, 2013 and White said he did not remember what that was for.
Clark asked if he kept a ledger of deposits and disbursements and he indicated he did.
She asked what was the $5,385 payment on April 17, 2013 to Michigan Millers. He replied it probably was car insurance for the full year on his vehicles.
She asked him what vehicles he had and he said he had three leased vehicles, one 2011 Mustang being purchased, and one paid-off 2004 Ranger.
“Why so many vehicles?” Clark asked.
White said he has three kids and everyone has a car. He said his daughter has a Fusion, his son an Escape, his other son an F-150, and he drives the 2004 Ranger.
Clark asked about Michael and Julie Casen who he gave $17,500 to in April 2013 and White said, “They weren’t satisfied. I refunded.”
Clark asked if he had any other accounts with Genisys besides checking and a share and he replied, “Nope.”
He said he closed those and opened two new accounts with Unified Community Credit Union. He said in the past he had accounts with Charter One, TCF, and Comerica and they all were law firm accounts.
When questioned more by Clark, White said he operated his law firm in his own name and had not incorporated it or formed a Limited Liability Company.
He said his 2011 Mustang has over 35,000 miles on it and is good condition. The Ford Ranger has 152,000 miles and is in fair condition.
She asked about the 1969 coupe.
White said he had a 1969 Mustang he bought to restore, but said that was too expensive so in 2006 or 2007 he sold it to a person in Australia.
Then she asked about Belleville Industrial Company, of which he said he is the sole member. It is a commercial cleaning business and is a franchise for Jani-King.
She asked how many employees he had and he said he thought it was five. She asked who keeps the books and he said he did with the help of a local professional, but he didn’t know whether or not she was a CPA. He said the books are on an Excel program on the computer at his house.
“All the books and records are at your house for this business?” Clark asked and White replied, “Some may still be at 35 Main. I still have access to that office.” He said he leases that office. (The building is owned by Louis Leonor, who just has been added as a creditor.)
Clark asked who kept books for the law firm and he said he did on a computer now at his house. He said his computer record for the business was on Quik Books and he said he would provide the password to the bankruptcy trustee later.
Clark asked about his accounts receivable that are questionable, marked “collectability uncertain.” He said they were more than 90 days old and it was questionable whether they could be collected. The total is unknown.
White said he had Capital One stock worth $81,000 two years ago, now worth $10,000.
She asked about his interest in real property and he said he was a land contract lendee for his home on Savage Road. (The owner of that house also is listed as a creditor.)
She asked if he had transferred any property in the last five years and he said no. She asked what about the 14’ boat in 2006 and the F-150 in 2010?
He said he transferred ownership of the boat in 2006 and the 2010 leased vehicle to Atchinson Ford. He said there may be additional vehicles, all traded at Atchinson.
She spoke of the claim against White that resulted in seizures of property. He said a John Deere tractor and a 2004 Bombardier four-wheel-drive ATV were taken and returned to him and are in his garage.
Georgina Hamilton said that also seized by the court to pay what White owed her and her husband were three other ATVs and a trailer.
White said there were only three ATVs, a trailer, and a tractor.
Hamilton insisted four ATVs were seized and said she had photos.
“Only three were seized,” White insisted.
The hearing ended and the scheduling of the more expansive, 2004 exam will be set in the future.
On Aug. 29, White signed agreements with Ford Motor Co. to make up the payments he missed on the leased vehicles and the Mustang he is purchasing and to keep paying the monthly payments.
Also in White’s paperwork at Bankruptcy Court is a signed statement that he takes home $4,700 per month now, $2,000 of which comes from “family assistance.”
Meanwhile, Michigan State Police Detective/Sergeant Mark Moore reported Tuesday that the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office any day will be issuing a warrant for White’s arrest on embezzlement and larceny charges for the original case the MSP has been investigating since last spring.
By Rosemary K. Otzman